Lehigh Valley

Bethlehem mayor reconsiders Main St. parking situation to help businesses

Bethlehem mayor aims to help businesses, reconsiders Main St. parking

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - If you've ever tried to park in Bethlehem, you know it can be a challenge.

New mayor Robert Donchez wants to make it easier, and he's asking small business owners for help.

Even on a soggy summer day, there's just something about an afternoon stroll in Historic Bethlehem, but that trip comes at a cost.

"I do have customers that complain about the parking," said Carmen LoBaito, who owns the Artsy Diva Boutique on Main Street.

LoBaito and other business owners here say they've had a steady stream of complaints since the city extended meters hours from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. four years ago.

The idea was to free up spots for people to come downtown and dine out.

"I know the concern is that people who live on Main Street will take the parking spaces, but maybe -- maybe not," she said. "I don't know. Was that an issue before?"

Bethlehem's new mayor says he's listening. Thursday, Donchez launched a 16-member Business Advisory Committee of business leaders who will report directly to him.

"I found that to be a very big concern during the campaign," he said. "I spoke to many business owners and they felt there was a little bit of a disconnect."

Donchez won't commit to parking changes yet.

"Stay tuned," he said with a laugh.

One idea could include changing Main Street's sometimes confusing angled parking spots. Drivers have to back into them on a hill.

"I kind of like it because then you can just pull right out," said John Kephart, visiting from Altoona.

Some customers have even complained about getting tickets before the meters were up.

Don't expect any immediate changes though.

The mayor's committee met for the first time Thursday afternoon, and will continue throughout the year discussing a whole variety of business topics.

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