Discussions between the City of Ann Arbor and the Downtown Development Authority concerning who should control parking enforcement are at a standstill as members of both groups dispute where the responsibility should fall.

The DDA, which is in charge of parking maintenance and collection from meters and parking structures throughout the city, agreed to transfer $2 million in parking revenue to the city in May under the condition that talks would take place to discuss the possibility of expanding its duties to include parking enforcement, among other responsibilities.

But now that the topic is open for discussion, some City Council members appear opposed to the possibility of transferring responsibility.

According to City Council Member Stephen Kunselman (D–Ward 3), the DDA “does not have a leg to stand on when it comes to the parking issue.”

The city and the DDA each created “mutually beneficial committees” in 2009 in order to handle the process of negotiating the parking agreement, but the negotiations have yet to result in a decision.

Kunselman questioned whether City Council even needed approval for the money from the DDA given that the group was originally created by the city itself.

“It’s not their money by law and that’s what gets missed in the translation,” Kunselman said. “There’s this sense that oh, we have to work with the DDA and we have to come to an agreement. Well, no we don’t. It’s our money.”

Parking arrangements were outside of the purview of the DDA until 1992 when the city asked the DDA to manage the off-street parking system. In 2002, the committee took over management of the on-street parking system as well.

Executive Director of the DDA Susan Pollay said that management and enforcement of parking are not necessarily the same but are best handled collectively.

“To us, parking enforcement and parking operations are two halves of the same parking system,” Pollay said. “Optimally, enforcement and operations strategies are planned and managed together.”

The DDA believes that parking management and enforcement are best run by the same entity. Currently, the DDA has a contract with Republic Parking, a private company, to handle parking operations. These operations include running and maintaining the parking structures, selling meter cash cards, collecting money from the meters and reserving metered locations for private occasions or construction access.

Officers of the community standards branch of the police department are currently in charge of parking enforcement, handing out tickets for parking violations. Police officers also have the power to issue parking tickets.

“The DDA itself as a body is not going to directly enforce parking. They would contract it out,” Kunselman said. “I will not abdicate my responsibility to the community to a third-party vendor.”

Pollay said the DDA wishes to gain control over parking because its mission as an agency is to promote the growth and development of the downtown area.

“Having an effective parking system requires that parking rules and regulations be established and then enforced fairly, consistently and with sensitivity to the fact that most customers’ first and last impression of downtown begins and ends with their parking experience,” Pollay said.

Since the $2 million transfer, the discussion about the parking agreement between the city and the DDA has not seen any resolution or action.

Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje said that while he believes the DDA’s aim is to create a friendlier downtown parking atmosphere, he does not believe a transfer of responsibility would be beneficial to the city.

“So far, it is just talk. What I think the DDA wants is a representative downtown to be there with a smile, to provide a friendlier face to be aware of things like aggressive panhandling,” Hieftje said. “However, I’m not in favor of the DDA taking over parking enforcement.”

The two “mutually beneficial committees” have until October to come to an agreement on the issue.

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