By Errol Castens/Daily Journal Oxford Bureau
OXFORD – Despite some doubts, aldermen voted 7-0 to approve ordinance changes that will extend and intensify enforcement of downtown Oxford parking limits.
The plan includes contracting with Central Parking to enforce a two-hour limit on storefront parking within Oxford’s downtown area using license plate recognition equipment. Enforcement will go from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., including Saturday. Parking in off-street lots, including a new one that will be added to the four existing ones near the Square, will remain free.
The first month under the new regulations, which begin in mid-October, will be citation-free, aimed at educating the public. After that, the first offense will be free, but subsequent violations will be increasingly costly, with fines up to $75. Unpaid fines or continuing offenses will result in towing or booting of vehicles.
Members of the Downtown Parking Advisory Committee have emphasized that the plan is aimed not at generating revenues but at giving all downtown visitors an equal chance at finding a parking place.
Committee chairman Jeff Triplette has said often that the effort is about “changing people’s habits.”
City Planner Tim Akers said one advantage of the license recognition software will be identifying patterns in how people use downtown parking.
The parking committee, he said, “would like the opportunity to develop data and if there is need, to change the ordinance later.”
Mayor Pat Patterson, who owns University Sporting Goods, admitted his own reservations about the changes.
“I’m worried, but I know we’ve got to do something,” he said. “The status quo isn’t working anymore.”