Map of downtown Westport’s parking lots. / Illustration,

By John Schwing

WESTPORT — Although controversial plans to revamp the Parker Harding parking lot have been “paused” to consider other options, a proposal to renew pre-pandemic time limits on downtown parking may spark new questions about long-smoldering issues of parking availability.

The Board of Selectwomen, according to the agenda for its Wednesday meeting, is scheduled to consider a plan to “re-establish the enforcement of timed parking limits in various town-owned downtown parking lots and roadways.” 

Time limits on parking, along with fines for violators, were suspended by the board at its June 10, 2020, meeting as a way to encourage downtown commerce hit hard by the impact of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.

At the time, according to minutes of that meeting, Randy Herbertson, who then was executive director of the Westport Downtown Association, “explained that suspending the parking time limits would provide sufficient time for consumers, patrons and visitors to shop and dine.” Herbertson is now chairman of the Downtown Plan Implementation Committee, which recommended the on-hold redesign of Parker Harding Plaza.

Suspension of the parking limits was unanimously approved through Aug. 31, 2020, according to the board’s resolution. It was not immediately clear why that decision remains in effect nearly three years later.

With the influx of new Westport residents — and new downtown businesses — since the height of the pandemic, the prospect of time-limited parking on streets and parking lots in the area may come as a surprise.

Sal Liccione, a Representative Town Meeting member from District 9, which encompasses downtown, said Monday that many downtown businesses he had surveyed informally appeared unaware of the impending change.

The proposal, designed to free up parking spaces more quickly, also has potential to re-ignite questions about the overall inventory of downtown parking — particularly as it concerns the larger pool of employees working in the busy business district.

The Board of Selectwomen’s meeting is set for 9 a.m. Wednesday, July 26, in the Town Hall auditorium. The meeting also can be viewed online via the town’s website and cable access Channel 79.

John Schwing, the Westport Journal consulting editor, has held senior editorial and writing posts at southwestern Connecticut media outlets for four decades. Learn more about us here.