Beaufort parking fix proposals split over moratorium vs gradual tweaks

Tuesday's Beaufort City Council meeting kicked off with a bit of acoustic reverberation from a technical glitch and the swearing in of returning members Donnie Beer and Mike Sutton by Judge Ralph

But it didn't take long for the lighter nature of the meeting to return to a familiar topic: parking.

The overriding theme of the meeting seemed to have been set by Mayor Billy Keyserling who early on asked for clarification on the drive on the parking enforcement, "As far as I can recall, the principal issue is to have turn over in parking and parking spots dominated by employees. The constant [of our efforts] has been to generate turnover so that customers have access to parking."

Draw them from Bay Street with 75 cents

Ultimately the proposal to adjust time limits and hourly rates to drive long term parkers away from Bay Street passed first reading, but only with the promise that much data would be gathered and the existing proposal would change significantly when it was next up. 

"I'd like to exam a 75 cent rate for the 130-spot marina parking lot," Councilman Mike Sutton said. "We have to look at what we make an incentive, and I also like the ideas of a sliding scale for long term parking."

Monthly passes were also looked at, currently the city has 63 subscribers that pay $35 a month to park in a limited number of eight hour spots.

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144 A map shows proposed new parking rates by street and zone, the tiered idea is supported but sure to change on second reading.

Motion to remove kiosks from streets fails

A motion failed that would have removed the six parking kiosks from Bay Street and relocate them to surface lots.

Keyserling, voted against as he "was hearing too many options, but wanted to pursue the spirit of it." Beer and Fordham also voted against it. Sutton said he "wants the meters back or a strong presence from merchants that they want free parking downtown."

To add the new double head meters to Bay Street would be a cost of $34,200, or the city could use its old meters with a five day labor cost and new metal pipes.

Three free: Parking moratorium proposal

Downtown land owner and businessman Charles Aimar addressed council while a sheet of paper was given to the city that contained signatures by some 60 downtown merchants concerned about the parking situation. Aimar said he was "asking council members to hold off a quick decision on a solution that we think things need some time." 

Aimar continued that, "we need help, not obstacles from the city. We've already lost some business downtown. Locals will find other places to do business."

He stated that the group's opinion was a parking fee moratorium for six months and for the city not to spend any money on adding new or reinstating former parking meters.

He further said that a survey of business owners on Bay Street for a free three hour strictly enforced limit with the existing $10 ticket fee for violators.

But by the end of the meeting the proposal didn't seem to hold much traction with the council, at least not in this meeting.

The theme seemed to be that if downtown merchants were serious about wanting a free grace period for customers (something that Keyserling pointed out the city tried long ago and it was a failure) that downtown merchants needed to come out in mass to support.

For their part, many of the ten or so merchants present said that they were not proposing free parking forever, but to act as respite from the parking debacle and to act as a sort of Bay Street stimulus package.

Misc facts about parking

On multiple occasions Keyserling voiced his support for the kiosks as they allow for detailed data collection on how and when people park and pay, some of those facts and other parking facts aired at the meeting:

  • More than 61,000 transactions in the month of November.
  • 73% of those transaction were with dollar bills or credit cards.
  • In Novmber 207 tickets were written, 184 were for exceeding the two hours. The month prior before the free two hour parking there were 110 for exceeding two hours. Council members pointed out the were a number of things that could taint that data in regards to confusion over the free parking.
  • Main Street Beaufort has spent a little more than $8,000 recently to promote downtown Beaufort, they've recieved some $7,000 from parking. 
  • There was some concern over a "guaranteed" monthly dole out to Lanier, council members couldn't confirm that was the case. We'll follow up. 

Assorted council business

Movie feature: Permission to film on Craven Street from corner of Scott to Careteret Streets for Ron Tucker of Beaufort Film Society for February 16, 2011 was granted.

Bladen Street redevelopment appeals: Council member Mike Sutton had some concern about how appeals from the proposed Bladen Redevelopment appeals would be handled before heading to the appellate court -- should they go to HRB or Planning Commission -- and the clearness of the outlaid requirements. 

"If they're not going to follow by the prescribed rules it should be so precise that they shouldn't need to go to an appellate court" for an opinion. "I don't want it to go to review board that's roots are in historic design."

"I'd like a formal weigh in by the city attorney."

Done for the year

Tuesday's meeting was the last of the year, the next is Tuesday, January 4, 2011.

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