After three months of discussion and consideration by Jackson city leaders, a new plan has emerged to address the parking issues and problems in the downtown area.
The revised plan emerged at a meeting Monday evening, July 10 of Jackson City Council's Police, Fire and Traffic Committee, which has grappled with the issue since holding an initial committee meeting on April 10. The issue resurfaced after city leaders fielded new complaints about vehicles being parked in the on-the-street marked spaces for longer than the two-hour limit. City leaders made it clear the area around The Cambrian was considered to be the main problem spot as it was presumed residents of the senior citizens/disabled housing complex were among the leading violators.
Two initial proposed ordinances, which would have revised the current rules, have now been scrapped in favor of a new plan presented at the most recent meeting by Committee Chairman Jon Hensler, who said he had recently met with Jackson Metropolitan Housing Authority (JMHA) Executive Director Gary Keller, who was representing The Cambrian, and also Jackson Police Chief Carl Eisnaugle, to discuss the parking situation.
"This probably won't solve all the problems or make everyone happy," Hensler remarked as he announced his proposals at the July 10 committee meeting.
The plan, which developed as a result of Hensler's proposal and further discussion at the July 10 committee meeting, contains the following revised changes:
-- Vehicles may park for no more than four hours at a time in the on-the-street spaces throughout the business district. The current time limit is two hours and the first proposed change would have increased the time limit to three hours. During discussion, it was indicated the four hours would serve the interests of downtown employees and would also be easier for the police department to enforce a longer time limit.
-- The four-hour limit will be in effect from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Monday through Saturday, except for Sunday and on holidays.
-- The business district will be designated as follows: On Main Street, from Portsmouth Street to Church Street; on Pearl Street, from Portsmouth Street to Church Street; and on Broadway Street, from Main Street to Pearl Street.
-- Parking-related fines for most of the violations would be increased from $15 to $25. In addition to exceeding the time limit, these violations include: Parking in a prohibited zone, parking on a yellow curb, double parking, and parking over the line.
-- A much higher increase has been proposed for those who illegally park in a handicapped-only zone. That fine would increase from $25 to $250.
The revisions were made after Keller spoke out against initial proposals which called for a three-hour time limit for the on-the-street parking spaces in the downtown area, but singled out the block on Main Street from Broadway Street to Church Street for stricter restrictions. This block fronts The Cambrian.
The parking time limit for this block would have been in effect every day of the year and around the clock. However, elsewhere in the downtown district, the three-hour parking limit would have been in effect only from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday, but not on Sundays or holidays.
JMHA's Keller protested the proposed changes at the June 12 council meeting, describing them as "unfair," and asking council to reconsider its decision. Although none spoke, 19 Cambrian residents were in the audience to show their support. This led to council tabling the two initial ordinances and scheduling the July 10 committee meeting to revisit the issue.
During the July 10 committee meeting, Service/Safety Director Bill Sheward also reported that the parking lot behind The Cambrian was actually owned by Jackson Implement, and the business would consider allowing it to be used for Cambrian parking if assurances could be made to the business owner that no drug-related activity would occur there. Hensler also said he was told by Keller that The Cambrian was to have 14 designated on-the-street parking spaces provided, but only some of those spots are signed on the Broadway Street side of the building. Hensler felt that additional signs on other spots adding up to a total of 14 would be another positive step toward solving the problem.
It was also pointed out that free parking spots for anybody are available in a city-owned lot located off Portsmouth Street across from the Jackson County Courthouse Annex.
Hensler also suggested trying out "business permits" for parking, which would be issued to employees of downtown businesses. However, Sheward countered that these permits would work to take spots away from customers of those very businesses. Councilman Jeff Elliott opined that business owners and employees should want to save the on-the-street spots for customers. This was not approved.
At the conclusion of the July 10 committee meeting, Hensler proposed letting the two new proposed ordinances die and requesting the law director to draft new ordinances to reflect the latest recommended changes and gained the support of fellow committee members, Ron Queen and Loretta Jones, on this course of action.
During the full council meeting, the two proposed ordinances were not acted upon and allowed to die. Council is expecting to have replacement ordinances reflecting the new plan to be presented at the next regular meeting on Monday evening, July 24.