No decisions have yet been made, but Jackson City Council has put the brakes on a proposal to change the parking rules in downtown Jackson.
In a voice vote at Monday night's meeting, council backed up Second Ward Councilman Ron Queen's motion to table the proposed ordinance, which would authorize the parking rule changes. Council was to have taken a second reading at the meeting and would not have taken a final and decisive vote until its next regular meeting on Monday evening, July 10. Instead, Council President Eric Brown directed council's Police, Fire and Traffic Committee to meet and resume discussions on the issue.
Council's turn in the road appeared to be in direct response to comments made at the beginning of the meeting by Jackson Metropolitan Housing Authority (JMHA) Executive Director Gary Keller, who had requested to address council to politely protest the proposed change, which he described as "unfair." Sixteen residents of The Cambrian were present in the audience to hear and support him. The Cambrian is a JMHA-operated project at 254 East Main Street in downtown Jackson, which provides apartments for elderly and disabled adults.
The proposed ordinance, which is now on hold, would make several notable changes. Currently, the city offers free parking in the marked spaces in the downtown section, but with a two-hour limit in effect from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday through Saturday with the exception of holidays. However, concerns have been expressed at recent council and committee meetings about some vehicles consistently violating the two-hour parking limit with the area around The Cambrian being the most chronic problem. Complaints were voiced that some vehicles were staying parked in the same spaces for days at a time without being moved.
As a result of a Police, Fire and Traffic Committee meeting on May 8, a proposed ordinance to change the parking rules was introduced at the May 22 council with the following provisions:
-- The parking time limit for vehicles will be increased to three hours from two hours in the marked parking spots in the downtown area.
-- The new three-hour parking limit would be in effect at all times, 24 hours a day and every day, including weekends and holidays, in the parking spots located on East Main Street between Broadway Street and Church Street on those sides of Main Street. The front main entrance to The Cambrian is within this block.
-- However, elsewhere in the downtown district, the three-hour parking limit will be in effect only from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday, but not on Sundays or holidays.
After speaking highly of The Cambrian's association and experience with the city's fire and police departments and being proud to be a part of downtown Jackson, Keller addressed the parking issue.
"We believe the policy is unfair," Keller stated in reference to the fact the rules are different for the other downtown blocks. "We want to be treated equally like the rest of the downtown and we want equal enforcement."
Keller threw out several alternative ideas to council including enacting a uniform five-hour parking limit which would be in effect six days a week. When he concluded his remarks, he received a loud round of applause from the Cambrian residents in the audience.
Councilmen had no questions for Keller after he completed his comments and the matter was not addressed again until the ordinance with the proposed changes came up for a second reading. Queen then moved to table the legislation, based on what was heard from Keller, which council then supported. Council President Brown then indicated he would get with Police, Fire and Traffic Committee Chairman Jon Hensler to resume the discussion at the committee level.
"We want to make sure to do something that's fair and balanced," Brown remarked. "I have received comments both ways."
In a related matter, council did take the second reading on a proposed ordinance which would increase the fine for parking over the three-hour limit from $15 to $25. Financial penalties for all other parking violations would remain the same at $15.
When Queen asked if this ordinance should also be tabled, At-Large Councilman Jon Ondera said he didn't think there was any need to reconsider this legislation and nobody disagreed with him.
The discussion ended with At-Large Councilman George Kitchen declaring that the fine for illegal parking in a handicapped-only zone should be increased from the current amount of $25 to $250.