Portland City Council OKs fee on car-parking services

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PORTLAND — For the first time, valet services using on-street city parking will have to pay fees for the privilege, the City Council decided unanimously Monday.

Under an ordinance approved 8-0, valet services will be allowed between 6 p.m. and 2 a.m. to reserve two on-street spaces in a single location, where customers can drop off and pick up their cars, which are then parked off-street. There will be a $250 annual permit fee for each location, and a $50 fee to use a location for a single day.

The ordinance doesn’t apply where drop-offs and pick-ups are made on private property, such as at some hotels. And on-street valet services will be required to post signs listing their prices at each location.

In many cases, there won’t be a price. Currently, Portland’s only valet service, Valet4ME, parks cars for customers of three downtown restaurants. Restaurants pay Valet4ME a per-night fee, and customers park for free.

The establishment of Valet4ME in 2012 prompted the council to begin looking at regulation of valet services that use on-street parking. Prior to that, the city never had specific rules about them, according to a staff memo.

But High Street resident Steven Scharf questioned the need for creating rules now, and claimed the fees were not conducive to business.

“Do we really need to regulate and contol (valet services)?” he asked councilors. “This is really just a new tax on people who want to run a business in the city.”

In response, Councilor Jill Duson said that Portland is “very open” to business, but that the city has a duty to regulate the way scarce parking spaces are utilized. “It’s part of the City Council’s responsibility to regulate limited resources,” she said.

After the meeting, Valet4ME owner Carl Loomis said he was glad the ordinance will provide some “clarity” for his eight-person business.

In the past, Loomis said, police and business owners questioned whether he was allowed to use on-street parking for his customer drop-offs and pick-ups.

“I’m glad to get the permitting piece out of the way,” he said. Still, he admitted, the fees are daunting.

“The fees are going to be a little tough for a small business like mine,” Loomis said. “But that’s OK for now.”

The next council meeting will be held Monday, June 17, at 7 p.m. in City Hall. At that meeting, the council is scheduled to vote on whether to approve the city’s budgets for capital improvements and municipal operations for the 2014 fiscal year, and will take public comment on both budgets.

William Hall can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or whall@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @hallwilliam4.