By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Oxford’s Downtown Parking Commission took a concrete step on Friday toward having a public garage near the Square with the appointment of a subcommittee to research the possibilities.
Mayor George “Pat” Patterson said city officials had considered four sites for a garage.
“We’d sort of narrowed it down to behind City Hall, and the Oxford-University Club lot has been put back into play since we purchased the lot next door,” he said.
City Planner Tim Akers said Lee Burch, a construction engineer, had been hired to help evaluate the two sites.
“Our proposal is to come back within four weeks of the start with the preliminary study of the two sites and the projected costs,” Burch said.
Even with two sites under consideration, one of the ideas commission members seemed to find most intriguing was that of a multi-story garage behind City Hall.
“I like the idea of taking an elevator into a well-lit plaza, maybe with a police substation,” said Commission member Ron Hipp.
“And we would find an appropriate place for Skipwith Cottage,” Patterson added.
Also on Friday, commissioners discussed at length the two-hour limit on storefront parking in the downtown area and the 8 p.m. cutoff of enforcement.
Some restaurateurs have complained that it does not provide enough time for patrons both to browse in stores or, for instance, attend an art show or the weekly “Thacker Mountain Radio” show and still have time to dine.
Commissioner Amanda Hyneman emphasized a three-hour limit would allow lunch-shift restaurant employees to use storefront parking from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. instead of parking in nearby lots, countering the basic idea of compelling downtown workers to leave storefront parking for customers.
Parking commission chairman Tom Sharpe spoke against shorter enforcement hours.
“If you move (enforcement cutoff) back to 6 p.m., the restaurant people for the night shift come in at 4 p.m., and you’ll have restaurant workers taking storefront parking again,” he said.
After extensive discussion, commission members declined to change hours of enforcement.