Valet Parking Ordinance Nearly Ready


    GRAND RAPIDS — Parking commissioners recently got their initial look at what will become the city’s first-ever valet parking ordinance.

    The ordinance, as drafted by Assistant City Attorney Michael McGuire, would require a valet parking company to be licensed annually and to show the city that its operation won’t create right-of-way problems for parkers, drivers and pedestrians.

    The ordinance would also require a firm to use off-street parking to store customers’ cars, but would allow on-street spaces for pick-up and drop-off sites. A firm, however, would be charged for those curb spots.

    “It really is quite simple,” said McGuire.

    Other pieces of the ordinance would make a company responsible for the actions of its employees; would allow the city to suspend or revoke a license if a valet parker violated the regulation; and would require a firm to be insured and co-insure the city for any bodily harm that may result from the operation. Valet parking for special events would be allowed.

    What the draft version doesn’t contain is the cost of a license. McGuire said the fee will be based on how much it costs the city to enact and enforce the ordinance.

    Parking commissioners are likely to vote on the ordinance at their December meeting, and it needs to be approved by city commissioners before it can take effect.

    City Fiscal Service Director Robert White told commissioners that the parking system was financially sound. He said the Parking Services Department should have $5.6 million worth of working capital this fiscal year, a figure $1.5 million higher than was initially projected last summer.

    But White said the system would likely see a drop in operating revenue of $265,000 from last year due to the closings of the Grand Center ramp, the Monroe Center 2 lot and the lot located behind the empty Hall of Justice building. The three were closed for construction projects; two for the expansion of the convention center on Monroe NW and the third for the erection of a new city-owned parking ramp at the corner of Ottawa and Louis NW.

    Net income for the year should reach $1.9 million. But bond payments and capital outlays will cut into that figure and the system’s working capital should fall by $850,000 this year. Parking Services ended the last fiscal year with $6.4 million in the working capital account.

    “The automobile parking system remains in good financial health,” said White.

    In an effort to pump up that operating revenue slightly, Parking Services Director Ted Perez is putting together the city’s first ding-and-dent program. The service would provide monthly parkers with wider spaces if they are willing to pay a premium to keep their cars from being scratched and dinged. These spaces would be about 30 inches wider than the standard space, which runs 8 feet, 9 inches in the newer ramps.

    The premium would increase a parker’s monthly bill by up to 50 percent, as the space would be considered reserved. Perez said he plans to have a draft of the program ready by next month, and would likely try the service first in the ramp located at Ottawa and Fulton.

    Parking Services also is leasing ground-floor commercial space in its new Monroe Center 2 ramp being built at the corner of Ottawa and Louis. About 8,000 square feet is available. The ramp is expected to open in early 2003.  

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