Metro, Newton

Newton City Council Strikes Down Parking Ban Petition

Newton City Council struck down a proposed two-year suspension of the city’s winter overnight parking ban in a 17–7 vote on Monday night in response to a petition filed to repeal the ban.

The petition concerned a Newton law that forbids overnight parking on streets between Dec. 1 and March 21. On Sept. 26, the city clerk certified 5,480 signatures to the petition, which met the 5,000 minimum required to place the issue on the City Council docket. The council’s Public Safety and Transportation (PST) Committee rejected it in a vote on Oct. 4.

Ward 3 Councilor-at-Large Andrea Kelley motioned for a Second Call on the item, which allows the full council to discuss and vote on an issue that a subcommittee already voted on.

“The PST Committee voted not to approve it nor to approve the proposed two-year trial, which is why I’m bringing it back to all of us,” Kelley said. “I’d like all 24 of us to have a chance to think about this.”

Ward 6 Councilor-at-Large Alicia Bowman said that a two-year trial removal of the ban would provide important data about what the city would look like with less restricted parking. According to Bowman, this information would be valuable to voters if an initiative question arose in 2025.

“I think that we’re better off doing a trial,” Bowman said. “It’s supposed to be a snowy winter—that will give us a good opportunity to understand what it’s like when [the parking ban] is overturned and be able to gather that data that would help us make better decisions.”

Ward 1 Councilor-at-Large Alison Leary said the parking ban is necessary to regulate vehicle ownership and traffic in Newton, especially with regard to the Village Center Overlay District—a proposed zoning ordinance that would increase multi-family housing in the city.

“We’re right in the middle of village center zoning … where we’re increasing density in our village centers,” Leary said. “Now I know everyone here has experienced Newton’s traffic, so you get more traffic when you get more liberalized parking.”

Kelley echoed the petition’s claim that the current parking ban is too extreme, calling instead for smaller, more focused restrictions.

“There’s no broader tool than bluntly refusing to let people park on the streets for four solid months, for maybe two nights of a storm,” Kelley said. “I think this is a very bludgeon-like tool when perhaps tweezers are more appropriate.”

Now that the ban removal has failed at the City Council level, the anti-parking ban campaign is allowed a 45-day period to collect additional signatures to petition an initiative for the 2025 ballot, according to Ward 4 Councilor-at-Large Joshua Krintzman. 

“My understanding is that signatures are being collected,” Ward 5 Councilor-at-Large Andreae Downs said. “This would be [a] binding initiative on a 2025 ballot if the petitioners are successful in obtaining the remaining roughly 2,500 voter signatures, in addition to the roughly 6,000 that they have already.”

Following the failure of the ban’s repeal, Krintzman said that the PST Committee should move to find solutions for specific issues with the ban. 

“My suggestion is to send this back to [the] committee,” Krintzman said. “I think we then have 45 days to come up with the plan, and my hope is that we will ask the administration for some assistance and some staffing to develop a parking scheme that accounts for the things that we’ve spoken about tonight.”

October 17, 2023