By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – The Downtown Parking Commission voted 6-2 Friday to recommend that the Board of Aldermen extend the limit for storefront parking from two hours to three.
The two-hour limit has been in effect for years, but education and enforcement moved to a new level in November, when Standard Parking took over the process. As residents have grown familiar with the new system, tickets have decreased greatly, and downtown business owners have acknowledged more turnover of space, but said it can discourage leisurely shopping.
“While we’re successful at moving people off the Square, I think we’re hurting some businesses with the two-hour time limit,” said Mayor Pat Patterson, whose interests include a sporting goods store on the Square. “I think it’s the sentiment of the majority of business owners, including myself, that three hours would be beneficial.”
Chairman Tom Sharpe said he’d feared restaurant workers would arrive at 5 p.m. and reclaim storefront parking that they’d given up with the advent of 8-to-8, six-days-a-week enforcement.
“What I’ve learned is that the evening shift pretty much universally starts at 4 o’clock,” he said.
Commissioner Jeff Triplette used the discussion to reiterate his support for a paid parking system for premium spaces, a recommendation that the Board of Aldermen rejected last year without a vote.
“I don’t understand how extending the time when something is free accommodates more folks,” Triplette said. “I think we continue to avoid the real issue.”
Todd Wade, a candidate for mayor, said he’s heard complaints about tickets after two hours, especially from visitors.
“At least with paid parking, you know what you have,” he said. “You don’t have an unpleasant surprise when you get back to the car.”
Commissioners also hosted representatives of Structural Solutions Inc., a Texas-based company that has built more than 200 parking garages. Engineer Mike Richardson and architect Adrian Lovell and city officials discussed access points, height restrictions, structural possibilities, traffic schedule patterns and capacity needs.
The design specialists will consider city-owned sites behind City Hall and behind the Oxford-University Club and make preliminary recommendations.
Richardson joked that he designs garages to be as functional and economical as possible, then asks Lovell “to make it not look like a bowling shoe.”