Grand Haven eyes paid parking downtown

Ottawa County

GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — The city of Grand Haven is looking at the possibility of paid parking in the downtown area and city beach.

The city said multiple studies showed lack of parking as a problem. The research suggested there was opportunity to either add more parking or eventually have patrons pay for it.

Given the current squeeze for cash, the city said building more parking is not an option so it started research on paid parking. 

Last week, the Main Street Downtown Development Authority ran numbers on what it would look like. The first idea would affect 1,000 of the 4,000 parking spaces downtown. It would call for a $1- to $2-per-hour fee that would be charged only in the summer.

The city says it could be a way to control parking, leaving spaces open for people who are going to shops. It could also help the city generate money.

“Local government has very few sources of revenue generation and they’re always being constricted further and further, but our requirements and the demand on resources is going up and up,” city manager Patrick McGinnis said.

McGinnis said it costs the city about $400,000 each year to keep up those 1,000 spots. The MSDDA’s idea could bring in $1 million annually.

While the city says this is just a conversation rather than a plan in progress, some business owners are worried how it could affect them. 

“I feel it would be a little bit of a deterrent for people to come into Grand Haven to go to a store or grab something to eat,” business owner Marc Hoeksema said. “It takes some of the laid-back quality of the town out of the equation.”

His mother owns Carlyn and Company at 205 Washington Ave. on the town’s main drag. Hoeksema himself owns the gallery space next door. He said they have been there since the late 1980s and have seen lots of change, including in the parking. He believes adding paid parking will mean fewer customers. 

“I don’t know if it’s a 5% or a 25% difference that we will see but I’m sure there’s going to be some part of the population that will say, ‘I don’t feel like dealing with that today,'” he said.

Hoeksema isn’t alone in his concerns. Lots of people have been sounding off on the idea on a community Facebook page, many of them against it.

grand haven paid parking outrage
grand haven paid parking outrage
Screenshots from a community Facebook page show outrage over the suggestion of adding paid parking in downtown Grand Haven. (Feb. 19, 2020)

The city is working to reassure residents it is only doing research. It says it has residents’ best interests in mind.

“The city is never going to go forward with a plan that’s going to hurt business or hurt employees or be a negative. We would not do it if that was the fact. So we’re actively looking at how this does impact areas,” McGinnis said.

There are no plans to discuss the matter at any upcoming city meetings. If officials do decide to go with paid parking, they say it likely will not be this year.

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