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Parking update: Keep it simple


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Cars line Washington Street, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, in downtown Columbus. Mayor Kristen Brown will recommend that the city keep free, time-limit parking downtown rather than install parking meters when the city council is asked to make a choice next month.
Cars line Washington Street, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, in downtown Columbus. Mayor Kristen Brown will recommend that the city keep free, time-limit parking downtown rather than install parking meters when the city council is asked to make a choice next month.


A committee working to improve parking in downtown Columbus wants to simplify the rules.

The city’s Downtown Parking Committee members are rewriting the city’s parking ordinance, which they say is confusing. Rewriting the ordinance would help in parking enforcement and reduce rule duplications, committee members said.

One concern is that Columbus’ parking ordinance is 45 pages long, committee member and City Council President Dascal Bunch said.

 

Much of the ordinance is repetitive and out of date, said Elaine DeClue, another committee member and owner of downtown restaurant Tre Bicchieri.

“There’s some places that have unloading zones, and those zones aren’t there anymore,” she said. “There were fines for the same thing but two different prices. It looks like maybe they added on something but didn’t correct the old information.”

Once a revised parking ordinance is in place, the committee will consider recommending that the city purchase two handheld devices that can scan license plates and monitor how long cars have been parked in a space, Bunch said.

City Attorney Jeff Logston said he would have a new draft of the ordinance prepared for the committee’s next meeting June 25.

If the committee approves the draft, a new city parking ordinance could go before the Columbus City Council by July 1.

Finding spaces

The committee is made up of city officials and downtown business representatives who volunteered or were appointed by Mayor Kristen Brown.

Committee members are trying to determine how to reconfigure downtown parking options so that businesses in the city’s core have spaces for customers and employees working downtown have a place to park, too.

An $85,000 city-funded study from the Nelson/Nygaard consulting firm of Boston determined there are enough downtown parking spaces. The consultants said most sought-after parking spots are filled with downtown business employees and the remaining available parking isn’t being used efficiently or consistently.

The Nelson/Nygaard study recommended installing paid parking, or parking meters, in the downtown area to increase parking space availability for downtown customers. But Brown asked for an alternative without the paid parking, because she is not in favor of the meters.

The mayor created the committee to look through the recommendations and find areas where downtown parking could be improved without meters, working with various city departments on signs, enforcement options and evaluating on-street and off-street parking options.

The city’s downtown parking enforcement officer is Sharon Stark, who now monitors vehicles by writing license plate numbers and times on a legal pad to determine if motorists exceed the three-hour daily parking limit.

The city’s parking ordinance would be stored on the handheld devices; and if a violation has occurred, a parking enforcement officer will be able to print off tickets on the spot. Bunch said both devices would cost less than $20,000. The earliest those devices would be purchased and in Stark’s hands would be the beginning of August, Bunch said.

The parking committee is considering whether more parking monitors are needed, but Bunch called those conversations preliminary.

Larger issues remain

Committee member Tom Dell, who headed a committee that worked with Nelson/Nygaard on the parking study, said the committee is working through the easier issues of new parking enforcement technology and fine-tuning the ordinances, steps that can be accomplished quickly.

The enforcement and ordinance changes will help parking efficiency, he said, but it doesn’t really change the existing parking problem.

“These can pacify some people by saying, ‘Well, we did some of the things the consultants wanted us to do,’ but it doesn’t really gain use, what we really need in the core area,” he said. “(It doesn’t) give us the availability we want.”

Dell said the recommendation for parking meters could essentially be stonewalled forever, and any move toward paid parking would have to come from the City Council and the Columbus Redevelopment Commission.

“If you put paid parking in and didn’t do anything else, you could gain availability instantaneously,” he said.

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