By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Officials and businesspeople have different perspectives on new efforts to manage downtown parking.
“Hard” enforcement of the two-hour limit, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and six days a week, for streetside parking near the Square began Nov. 26. A month of courtesy tickets before offered information on rules and maps of off-street lots that have no time limit. The stated intention is to keep spaces open for those making short visits.
Greg Sisk, Oxford manager for Standard Parking, reported 315 first-offense, no-fine tickets as of Friday morning, with only six repeat offenders. He has shared more than 300 parking guides, including maps of free parking, for businesses to share with customers.
Downtown Parking Advisory Council member Ron Hipp said he counted more than 75 open spots in lots near the Square between 5:30 and 6 p.m. Thursday, usually a peak parking hour. It was exam week at the University of Mississippi, however.
More telling might be Parking Council Chairman Jeff Triplette’s visit downtown on Nov. 30, when student population was at full force.
“I came up … to go to the bank about 2 or 2:30 and actually got to park in front of the bank,” he said.
Reaction of downtown businesspeople is generally not so positive.
Thomasina Washington of Marchbanks Realty said real estate customers who may spend several hours looking at houses “are scared they’ll get a ticket.” They can often find spaces in city lots in the morning, she said, but “in the evening time they’re all taken.”
Stan Shanks owns Landry’s, a men’s clothier, said, “I’m afraid it’s going to hurt downtown.
“A lot of people here last Saturday were really frustrated,” he said. “Two hours is really ridiculous. You don’t have time to eat lunch and shop at a leisurely rate.”
Mike Jaure, manager at Old Venice Pizza Company, notices fewer early diners.
“Actually, I haven’t had any customers complain about it,” he said. “But two hours, if people want to go have dinner and do any shopping, isn’t long enough.”
Nella dress shop owner Jeff Johnson said he sees more open storefront spaces during the day.
“I would say that most customers think (the limit) needs to be three hours,” he said.
The current limit will stay in place for at least several weeks.
“We’re going to get a month or two of data and then make a decision,” Hipp said.
One parking development will be cheered by folks on all sides of the debate. Officials closed Friday on the purchase of a one-acre unpaved lot adjacent to the existing city lot off North Lamar. It will accommodate about 60 vehicles in its present form and 100 cars after paving and striping.
Mayor Pat Patterson reminded Parking Council members and several merchants Friday that parking woes mean people like downtown Oxford.
“These are great problems to work on,” he said.