A proposal to let Davidson County residents who drive environmentally friendly vehicles park for free at Metro meters isn’t an easy sell for all Metro Council members, with one skeptic even deriding the plan as elitist.
The council’s Budget and Finance Committee last night opted to defer the green-parking bill until the second meeting in September at the request of sponsor Councilman Jason Holleman, who said he made the move to give the Metro Traffic and Parking Commission time to weigh in on the matter.
The council had originally been set to vote on Holleman’s bill on the second of three reading tonight.
Under Holleman’s plan, drivers of clean-technology passenger vehicles — hybrid, electric and biofuel automobiles, for example — would be allowed to park for free at any of Metro’s more than 2,000 parking meters.
To take advantage of the plan, Davidson County residents would be required to pay an annual $5 processing fee to the County Clerk’s Office for a sticker indicating that their vehicle is authorized to park for free. The fee is designed to pay off expenses Metro accrues to implement the plan.
The County Clerk’s Office would determine the eligibility of applicants by using a “green vehicle guide” found on the Environmental Protection Agency’s website. According to Holleman, six percent of all registered vehicles in Davidson County would qualify, including 40 different vehicle models. If approved, the law would take effect Jan. 2011.
But Councilman Michael Craddock called the proposal “pure elitism in its finest form.” He said the majority of drivers in the United States own cars that were manufactured before 2000. If Holleman’s bill were approved, Craddock said he would file an ordinance that would offer the same parking-fee exemption to drivers of vehicles that are at least 10 years old.
“I want to give a break to those people who cannot afford a new hybrid,” Craddock said. “I’m watching out for those fellows.”
Holleman said the idea for the bill came from Mayor Karl Dean’s Green Ribbon Committee, which recommended that Metro offer free parking for environmentally cleaner vehicles.
“The purpose of this incentive is not just because we think environmental issues are ‘cool and great, and that’d be something neat to do,’ ” Holleman said. “There really is a taxpayer cost at the back end of this if we don’t do something about air quality.”
Metro Finance Director Richard Riebeling said he’s still evaluating the financial impact and feasibility of Holleman’s proposal. Holleman said the plan is “revenue neutral.”
Still, some council members nonetheless questioned financial soundness of the bill, including At-large Councilman Charlie Tygard, who suggested it could cost Metro more than $5 to produce stickers for environmentally friendly vehicles.
“You’re talking about the cost of the sticker, the manpower to process the paperwork, the printing, the software, the postage to get it to that person,” Tygard said. “I just don’t think that can be done for five bucks.”