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Some businesses angry over loss of parking lot

by Paul Leakan

STAFF WRITER

Some Clarksburg officials believe the city's decision to lease nearly all of a downtown parking lot to two private businesses makes good economic sense.

But a handful of nearby business owners whose customers have relied on those parking spaces are simply fuming.

Last June, the Clarksburg Parking Authority agreed to lease 30 parking spaces to InfoCision Management Corp., a telemarketing firm located in the Palace Building.

Since then, the parking authority has also agreed to lease out an additional 20 spaces to InfoCision and 23 more to CDIG Inc., a company run by the owners of the Palace Building.

All of the parking spots are located in a 85-space lot next to the Moose Lodge on Main and Pike streets downtown.

On Saturday, the city removed all but 12 metered parking spaces in the lot, leaving four of the metered spaces on the Pike Street side of the lot.

City Manager Tom Vidovich said the lease agreement may be a good financial move for the city.

"I would be surprised if someone could make a case that that lot was always full with people parking there," he said. "I've been informed that historically that lot has not been filled. To leave the spaces empty does not make good fiscal sense."

Even so, several nearby business owners say they are enraged by the move.

"They left nothing for my customers," said Kathy Myers, part-owner of Precious Garments on Pike Street. "The main reason I rented this storefront shop was because it had accessible parking for my customers.

"If you take my parking away, you take my customers away. And if you do that, you take my business away."

Jim Lacaria agreed.

"This is not going to work," said Lacaria, who runs Frank's Barber Shop on Pike Street, which has been in operation for 40 years. "People are not going to drive around and drive around and not find a place to park. That's all my customers talked about yesterday."

Many customers who frequent Frank's Barber Shop, the Mitzi Layne Dance Academy, the Mid-Town Lounge and Precious Garments on Pike Street are also confused by the change.

"There are just oodles of noodles of people who are going crazy and don't know what to do," said Sam Lacaria, who owns the Mid-Town Lounge.

Anthony Bellotte, the city's parking systems manager, said there are several nearby private lots and other places for people to park.

"The availability of parking is there," he said.

Also, city officials have pointed out that the city will raise more revenue by leasing out the lot.

The city is charging $20 per month for each parking space -- money that officials say wasn't being raised when the lot was metered.

But a handful of residents said there still just aren't enough parking spaces in that area.

"It's going to be really hard to find parking spaces in that lot," said Maggie Waldeck, whose son and daughter are students at Mitzi Layne.

Waldeck said the dance academy sometimes has 50 students or more at a time.

"It's not going to be good for anybody," she said.

Some business owners say they just want the city to reopen the lot on a first-come, first-served basis.

And both Vidovich and Bellotte said the city is searching for additional parking in that area.

In the mean time, some business owners say they will likely contest the changes to the lot during Clarksburg City Council's regular 7:30 p.m. session on Thursday.

"Basically, they've isolated five or six businesses who have no way to exist," said Rick Terry, owner of the Ferrett Building on Pike Street. "Four meters aren't going to do any good. They need at least 20 parking spaces."

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