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THE opening of a new winery in downtown Columbus has once again brought to the forefront of public discussion an issue that has vexed city leaders for more than five decades — parking spaces, or the shortage of them.
In some respects, the parking issues raised by the winery on the triangular lot, which was home to a service station operated by Karl Scheidt from 1925 to 1973, hardly come as a surprise.
The owners, Doug and Mary Ann Pacheco, were aware there would be no spaces available on their land from the start. So was the Board of Zoning Appeals, which granted them a variance from a requirement that the restaurant have a minimum of six parking spaces on the property.
The Pachecos were fortunate in this instance in that they had the support of neighboring entities that were willing to work with them.
The Bartholomew County commissioners agreed to let winery customers park in the county lot across the street from the winery after 5 p.m. on weeknights. Officials of First Christian Church, which will be building a fourth lot for its members across Lafayette Avenue on the old ice house property, also said that their spaces can be used by downtown businesses when available.
While the situation raised by the opening of the winery appears to have been reasonably resolved, parking in the downtown area continues to be a matter of concern, so much so that city officials have launched a study into the matter and are collecting user opinions through a survey form available on the city’s website or at the Bartholomew County Public Library.
Concern over the issue is somewhat ironic since the city has graduated from a surface-parking only situation in the downtown area for the entire 20th century to a metropolitan-like downtown with three parking garages opened in the past decade. That latter-day development has still not quelled complaints by some that “there’s no place to park downtown.”
Perhaps some resolution can emerge from this latest study that will demonstrate that spaces can be found in the downtown area, but two elements needed for that happy revelation are understanding and a willingness to walk.
Reaction to the situation with the Pacheco Winery indicates that there is a significant measure of understanding in the community. County officials and leaders of First Christian Church demonstrated their support for their newest neighbors by giving patrons access to their lots when it doesn’t impose upon their regular users.
Owners of the Dairy Queen, immediately adjacent to the winery, have taken an understandable wait-and-see attitude about the situation, posting signs asking winery customers not to park in Dairy Queen spaces. It is up to the winery customers to be understanding and abide by those requests.
The bottom line is that there is just so much that can be done to accommodate those who wish to have parking spaces available at their destination downtown.
Winery co-owner Doug Pacheco had it right when he observed that Columbus is developing into a pedestrian downtown.
The good news is that the winery is the latest in a growing list of downtown destinations. People who visit those destinations are going to have to do some walking to get to them, regardless of where they park.
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