The Annapolis City Council approved last night a short-term parking plan designed to entice customers downtown, but some local merchants said the proposals will do little to save business during the reconstruction of Main Street.
The council voted to keep parking meter rates at 50 cents an hour until the year-long reconstruction project for Main Street is completed.
The council also voted to slash parking fines from $20 to $15 and halved rates in a city-owned garage to 50 cents an hour.
Parking would rise to 75 cents an hour at meters and increase at downtown garages once Main Street reconstruction is finished.
The project, which will close portions of Main Street for most of the coming year, is expected to begin later this month.
"Downtown businesses are basically choked to death," said Bob Rice, owner of Downtown Cycle in Annapolis. "If you raise rates immediately following construction, there will be no recovery time for business."
But city officials who have been organizing the new parking plan were quick to call it a breakthrough for downtown business.
Planning and Zoning Director Eileen P. Fogarty, who oversaw the Downtown Annapolis Parking and Transportation Advisory Committee, said the panel made strides in freeing downtown spaces for short-term parking and creating satellite parking for visitors.
"It's a major step forward for the city," Ms. Fogarty said. "And it's going to do a lot to combat the hardships of Main Street reconstruction. It's a huge commitment of money."
The parking plan approved by the council, which includes increased shuttle bus service and publicizing the new plan, will cost the city $268,000 to implement, she said.
The council did not include a proposal to make all parking at city-owned lots free during the Main Street project because it would have cost $102,000 in lost revenues, Ms. Fogarty said.
Alderman Wayne C. Turner of Ward 6 voted against the parking plan because he said he was concerned that downtown merchants did not have enough say in its development.