Newark's downtown business owners are waiting to hear if the city will provide parking passes for business owners and residents in the future.

Newark's downtown business owners are waiting to hear if the city will provide parking passes for business owners and residents in the future.

"It's very important that we do have parking passes available," said Steve Ehret, president of the Downtown Newark Association (DNA).

Newark City Council's safety committee last week considered potential legislation to allow the safety director to set a policy and allow some people to park longer than currently allowed in spaces downtown.

Ehret said business owners often need to park downtown for more time than the spaces currently allow.

Safety committee chairman Rick Henderson said some residents also might need to park longer than allowed. But Ehret cautioned that the city should not allow people who work downtown to obtain the passes and park in spaces that business patrons would use.

The legislation considered by the safety committee would allow safety director Roger Stollard to set fees and determine eligibility for the passes.

Councilwoman Shirley Stare asked if the passes would be allowed for anyone in the public.

Stollard said the city couldn't discriminate against a group of people. Newark law director Doug Sassen said the city legally could pass an ordinance giving the safety director discretion in issuing the passes and setting up a policy governing the passes. He said that in the past, however, council set some of the restrictions and then authorized the safety director to issue the passes.

Council president Marc Guthrie asked if the city could be specific, allowing passes to be sold only to business owners and residents.

Sassen said the city wouldn't be prohibited from such a measure.

Guthrie said his concern is, if legislation is not specific, "employees will pay it in the winter to park right on the square, and if that happens, it's going to be devastating to our businesses."

Councilman Doug Marmie argued that if the legislation contains too many restrictions, other problems could arise. He suggested making the safety director aware of council's opinions, giving him the tools he needs to set the policy and then letting him set the policy.

Councilwoman Irene Kennedy agreed, saying it's more difficult for council to change legislation than to have a safety director change policy. For example, Henderson said, council has been considering the parking passes for three months.

Virginia Patterson, owner of Memory Lane and member of the DNA, echoed Guthrie's concern, saying if passes could be sold to any downtown employees, new problems could arise. She also expressed concern over letting one person set a policy.

Sassen said the cost could be set so it would not benefit an employee to purchase a pass. He mentioned a downtown parking lot that costs about $25 per month and that the passes might need to cost more than that.

Stare asked if the city could specify that parking passes could be used in a restricted number of spaces, thus preventing parking for a long time in front of one business.

Newark Mayor Bob Diebold went a step further, suggesting the city restrict the number of passes available.

Stollard said demand for passes has been minimal thus far.

Stollard has recommended a price for the passes, but he said no figure has been set.

The safety committee voted to forward to council legislation that would allow Stollard to set the policy.