Stamford Board of Representatives kills proposal for free beach parking for residents

A sign notifies beachgoers that park permits are required at West Beach. Members of the Board of Representatives voted unanimously against advancing a resolution to make it free for certain residents to park at city beaches, following public backlash over the proposal’s potential impact on taxes.

A sign notifies beachgoers that park permits are required at West Beach. Members of the Board of Representatives voted unanimously against advancing a resolution to make it free for certain residents to park at city beaches, following public backlash over the proposal’s potential impact on taxes.

Tyler Sizemore / Hearst Connecticut Media

STAMFORD — Members of the Board of Representatives voted unanimously against advancing a resolution to make it free for residents to park at city beaches, following public backlash over the proposal’s potential impact on taxes.

The resolution as drafted would have eliminated parking permit fees for residents with a non-commercial vehicle registered in the city who were up to date on their car taxes, starting in 2023.

At a meeting of the board’s Parks and Recreation Committee last week, city officials said that if it had been free for residents with a car registered in Stamford to park at the beaches, there would have been about $429,000 less revenue from sales of seasonal and daily passes last year and about $473,000 less sales revenue this year. In addition, it would have reduced revenue from tickets by tens of thousands of dollars per year.

This week, during a meeting of the full board, two of the sponsors of the resolution, Rep. John Zelinsky, D-11, and Rep. Megan Cottrell, D-4, said that taxpayers perhaps would have only had to pay a few dollars more each on average to make up for the lost revenue. But after receiving a flood of negative feedback, Cottrell said she didn’t think the resolution should move forward at this time.

“I very much respect the fact that Stamford is a very expensive place to live in,” Cottrell said. “The reason that I wrote this resolution for 2023, and not 2022, is because I wanted whoever the next mayor is to work it into the budget as they see fit. If everything were to stay exactly the same, yes, there could be a small increase — we're talking like a cup of coffee, that kind of price. But many residents don't like the principle of that, and I understand that.”

Some residents, she added, have suggested that the board wait until a new mayor is sworn in, and if he or she “wants to make cuts in certain areas in order to fund this, then they would be in favor of it.”

Another sponsor, Rep. Nina Sherwood, D-8, agreed that the money could potentially come from elsewhere in the budget, and she thanked members of the public who “made their will known.”

But Rep. J. R. McMullen, R-18, argued that if the mayor can find savings in the budget, it should go toward easing tax increases.

All 37 members of the board who were present at the virtual meeting voted against holding a public hearing on the draft resolution — which would have preceded any final vote on the matter.

Rep. Raven Matherne, D-19, said a hearing seemed unnecessary since many members of the public have already responded to the proposal.

“I don't think we need to hear more from the public on this,” Matherne said. “I think the point has been made pretty clear.”

Currently, residents who have a car registered in Stamford pay $26.59, with sales tax included, for a seasonal parking pass. They can buy a daily pass at the beach entrance for $26.50, which can be exchanged for a seasonal pass. Senior residents who have a car registered in the city pay $7.44. The prices are higher for a resident whose car isn’t registered in the city and for non-residents.

About 22,000 seasonal parking permits were bought in Stamford this year, according to data provided to the board. Only about 100 of those permits were purchased by non-residents, who had to pay $292.46 each.

This year, about 3,600 daily passes were sold at beach entrances to people with a car registered in Stamford, about 2,100 of which were exchanged for a seasonal permit. About 2,400 daily passes were sold to people with a car registered outside of Stamford.

brianna.gurciullo@hearstmediact.com