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City Council finally votes on controversial parking ordinance

By Katelyn Gendron-List

Staff Writer

AGAWAM After many weeks of preparation, and one city council meeting filled with heated testimony from local residents and Six Flags personnel, the Agawam City Council finally voted to pass the new parking ordinance setting strong standards for transient parking.

The City Council passed the new parking ordinance with a 10 to one vote on June 18, which amends the current zoning ordinance that provided few stipulations for transient parking. The new parking ordinance, however, provides a clear definition for transient or temporary parking, sets fines and enforcement standards, and also requires a special permit from the Board of Appeals for all those who want to park cars on their properties, according to Richard Cohen, mayor of Agawam.

"I am very pleased to see that the Council passed the ordinance as submitted, in an effort to create a more safe environment not only for the Six Flags area but throughout the community," Cohen said. "We now have a clear definition of transient parking with set conditions and I believe that it is very fair and equitable and meets the needs of our community."

The previous Agawam City Council meeting on June 4, lasted over four hours because of numerous testimonies in support of the new ordinance from residents on Main Street, across from Six Flags New England. The residents on Main Street, were very disgruntled with the fact that local businesses and other residents were parking cars for those going to Six Flags at a discounted price it costs $15 to park in the lot at Six Flags and $10 to park in the various other "parking lots" on Main Street which in turn was causing large amounts of waste and loiterers on their properties.

Even the CEO of Six Flags Mark Shapiro showed up to testify in support of the new parking ordinance, bringing along a picture presentation that documented people parking across the street from Six Flags and walking across Massachusetts State Highway 159 in order to get to the park. Shapiro's passionate testimony was in favor of public safety, as he did not wish to see anyone hit by a car while trying to cross the highway to get to Six Flags.

When asked about the culmination of all of his hard work before and after the City Council meeting to get the new ordinance passed, Larry Litton, park president of Six Flags New England said, "It has been a long hard road and when it came time for the City Council and the mayor to step up to the plate, they did the right thing."

He went on to add, "We're ecstatic and couldn't be more pleased. Passing the ordinance was definitely the right thing to do."

George Bitzas, Agawam City Councilor, who voted in favor of the ordinance, could not be more pleased that it passed with such overwhelming support.

"We worked very hard with the administration to change some things and the 10 to one vote shows that it was a good ordinance," Bitzas said. "We have to protect the people there becuase someone could die crossing that road. It will be a lot better than before."

Cohen also stated that not only is the ordinance in support of public safety but also to provide the residents of Main Street, with some deserved relief.

However one City Council member, Jill Simpson, was not convinced that the new parking ordinance would alleviate the problems associated with transient parking. She decided not to vote in favor of the ordinance.

"I have not been comfortable from day one," Simpson said. "Whenever we do an ordinance like this there seems to be an enforcement issue and nothing seems to happen."

Simpson went on to add that even if people were to receive their special parking permit from the Board of Appeals, she believed that there would not be anyone around to enforce with the new ordinance.

"The problem with the Six Flags area is that some properties are zoned as business and others as residential so you're always going to have things happen to residents," Simpson said. "I am worried about officials not being able to enforce the ordinance."

However Cohen stated that there will be city personnel available to enforce the new parking ordinance including the building inspector and the Agawam Police Department.

"The mayor has assured me that the ordinance will be enforced in order to ensure the safety of everyone in Agawam and those traveling throughout Agawam," Litton said.

Now that the fight for the new parking ordinance is finally over Melissa Pinkerton, public relations manager at Six Flags, is relieved and looking forward to a summer of safety and fun around and throughout the park.

"We are just thrilled that the ordinance was passed," Pinkerton said. "We look forward to the enforcement so that all of our guests will have safe travel to the park."