Residents can expect to see some changes to downtown parking regulations ahead of the upcoming Town Square project that will reshape a significant portion of downtown.
City officials discussed during Thursday’s business session revisions to the code to implement the strategic parking plan and planned efforts to notify the public in sufficient time before any enforcement begins.
“It was a long time coming,” Councilman Tim Hubbard said. “We’ve worked with the Parking District and we’ve had several studies done over the years…Now we’ve had to tweak some things with the arrival of the town square and revisit what we had before that.”
He said the proposed changes came from downtown business owners, the city attorney’s office and the Community Development Agency.
“Hopefully we can implement that and then we can start enforcing the parking restrictions that are going to be downtown because right now they basically aren’t because everything is a hodgepodge,” Mr. Hubbard said.
Danielle Hurley, assistant city attorney, said the first phase of the parking plan that has been approved by the parking district committee only affects Main Street from Osborn Avenue to Ostrander Avenue.
She said the few 30-minute parking spots would be removed and the two-hour parking spots would be revised to one hour. She said the aim was to “increase downtown flow so that there can be more turnover for shops and boutiques”.
Two 15-minute spots will be added in front of where Cucina 25 is located on West Main Street and near where new retail stores will be located at the corner of McDermott Avenue and East Main Street.
Mr Hubbard said the aim was to help the retail businesses there “which are sort of take-out establishments”.
The second phase would be to increase the times when people can park in more remote lots along waterfronts and municipal lots.
“It would encourage people to park longer in those other lots,” Ms Hurley said.
Dawn Thomas, the city’s community development administrator, said the goal of multiple phases is not to confuse people and that in the event that significant changes need to be made after a public hearing, the entire hearing would not have to be redone.
Mr. Hubbard added that the parking district has allocated funds for signs indicating the setting up of colorful stalls for different periods. Ms Thomas said they would set up a meeting via Zoom this week with a company that also makes digital signs.
Mr Hubbard said he would expect there to be a grace period once the changes are implemented before any applications begin. He stressed that it is important that the application can be made, otherwise the changes are meaningless.
“Enforcing timed parking spots takes a bit of creativity from the police department,” he said. “Obviously it’s going to be labor intensive, but now there are electronic ways to do this and we’re going to have to explore them.”
Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said the city will make an announcement and issue press releases to help raise awareness once the changes are implemented. There is no firm date yet.
“We can get the word out very quickly,” she said.