Business support?

Mitch Hanna, manager of the Hamilton District Main Street program, said he supports the parking meter change “on behalf of business owners and community leaders in the downtown district.”

Hanna maintained the change will protect residents by assuring them places to park in residential parking zones and ensure parking turnover for business owners on Hamilton, Linden and Walnut streets.

Eichenwald asked Hanna how many restaurants and stores he met with about the change. He said he only spoke to one.

“What troubles me is that I spoke to many and they have a different opinion,” said Eichenwald. “I spoke to 12. All were concerned about increasing the time and how it will impact their businesses --- especially the restaurant owners.”

Hanna was blasted by resident Rich Fegley, whose family owns the Allentown Brew Works restaurant at 812 Hamilton St.

Fegley loudly and repeatedly accused Hanna of lying to council by saying he spoke to many business owners and restaurant owners in the city.

But Hanna never said that at the meeting, although he did imply that business owners support the parking change.

“He didn’t speak to any,” declared Fegley. He said that included the fact that Hanna, who represents Hamilton Street, never spoke to anyone from his family “and we’re the largest restaurant in downtown Allentown.”

As for the proposed parking meter change, Fegley said meters were intended for shoppers to have a place to park for a couple of hours --- “to be in and out.” He also understands that residents need regular places to park every day.

“At 6:30, someone could park in front of my restaurant and be there and be a resident who lives downtown. I understand the need for the later night enforcement.”

City police support the change

Capt. Tony Alsleben of the Allentown police department said police fully support the extension of hours on meter parking.

Alsleben indicated parking is a major quality of life issue in the city,

He said ensuring that residents have enough parking around the arena and downtown will help reduce double parking, which is a major issue on some city streets.

He said having the parking meters operating until 9 p.m. will encourage people attending events in the new arena to use parking decks and parking lots.

“We feel this will cut down on disputes between neighbors and people coming downtown to patronize the businesses and the events,” said the police officer.

Bethlehem did it

Lynn Cunningham, who runs the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce, said that city extended its parking meter hours until 9 p.m. a couple of years ago.

“At first it was met with resistance, because nobody really likes change and they fear change,” said Cunningham. But she added the impact hasn’t really been negative.

Cunningham met with seven Bethlehem merchants Wednesday morning. She said they told her the change has benefited them in some ways “because it keeps people from parking there all night long and it keeps movement in front of their places of business.”

Allentown managing director Francis Dougherty said businesses in Bethlehem have embraced the parking meter change. “We know that it works.”

But resident Ken Heffentrager claimed Bethlehem is different. “The bulk of the meters in Bethlehem are in an area that is full of stores and businesses,” he said. He added in Allentown the meters are on many streets where low-income families live, but there are no stores on those streets.

Heffentrager said paying $3 more a day – or $18 more a week – can have a big impact on low-income residents.

He also said many shops on other metered streets close by 6 p.m.