A downtown revitalization project brought a new parking lot to the former jail property off Vance Street to accommodate businesses and those who work and shop around the courthouse square. However, a couple of those business owners say the new lot has not done the trick in serving their employees.
The matter was discussed during a recent City Council meeting and will continue to be considered next month.
Clinton-Sampson planning director Mary Rose asked Council members to consider designating eight parking spaces in the Vance Street parking lot as two-hour parking and the remaining 16 spaces as all-day parking. Property owners along Vance Street previously contacted the Planning Department regarding the under-utilization of the Vance Street parking lot and their need for employee parking, Rose said.
“As you recall, several months ago, the new parking lot created on the site of the former jail property was designated as two-hour parking, the entire lot,” Rose told Council. “After several months of viewing how the parking lot is being used, several members of the downtown stakeholders group asked that we put together a meeting on the property of the parking lot.”
Rose subsequently met with those owners Aug. 14 at the parking lot to discuss how it was being used and what type of designation would be most beneficial to the businesses and those who frequent them. Present at that meeting were eight business owners in the Vance Street vicinity. During the discussion, those in attendance expressed the need to accommodate both customers and employees.
“It was the consensus of the group to request that eight spaces remain two-hour, and the rest of the lot be designated all-day free parking, due to the needs of some of the business owners for some additional parking for their employees,” Rose said. “We look at this as somewhat of an incentive to these businesses to be downtown. We have also witnessed lower activity than average in this parking lot.”
Wayne Weeks, owner of Weeks & Associates Insurance, expressed the need for more parking to be available to serve his employees.
“We need some of the parking spaces for some of our employees, especially as it is getting dark,” said Weeks. “It’s kind of dangerous and we have a lot of walking traffic, especially this time of year. It seems like more so than in the past few years.”
Weeks also brought up whether there would be the opportunity for leased spaces. Even with the approval, there is the issue of people parking improperly in the lot, Weeks noted.
“They come in and they take two parking spaces. I know, of course, you can’t police this all the time, but this is an issue we’re going to continue to have probably whatever we do,” Weeks said. “I would not mind leasing a parking space, so I would have one up front and if I was gone, my employee would have it.”
He said whatever was done, it would likely be an improvement.
“It has got to be better than what it is now,” he said. “Right now, it’s not being utilized the way it should be. We will need to try to get everybody to park properly in there.”
Rodney Grantham, store manager for Sampson Building Supply, echoed Weeks’ comments.
“We do need parking; we’ve been needing parking for a long time,” said Grantham. “Where my place is, we just simply do not have parking. We don’t. We’ve got everybody crammed up in one hole. We can’t get in, we can’t get out.”
Grantham agreed with Weeks that double parking was an issue. Whether all-day or some leased parking, he said it did not matter to him as long as he can “get some parking.” Weeks said he was aware of some leased spaces that were in the other areas around the square up Vance Street, and shared his concern that some with leased spaces in the other lot might move over to the Vance Street lot, taking the spaces from businesses that are closer.
“That is a valid point,” said Mayor Lew Starling. “My thought is maybe we’ll let the (police) chief (Jay Tilley) check into how many (leased) spaces there are in the other lot. We don’t want to defeat our purpose in getting you parking over here. We don’t want to free up, and then you have no parking because everybody has moved. We need to be sure we’re not making a mistake with this.”
Councilwoman Jean Turlington said city staff needed to ensure that everyone was being treated the same and, if there were parking issues, that all of them be addressed and not just some. Starling requested that Tilley and city manager John Connet work with local business owners through September toward coming to a workable solution.
The matter is expected to be discussed further at the Council’s October meeting.
“We want to be sure we solve it and don’t cause another problem,” the mayor said.
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.