City Council votes to make paid parking changes

There were no major paid parking developments at Tuesday night’s meeting, but the Fayetteville City Council did pass all of the staff’s proposed amendments.

Those who showed up hoping to see some radical changes likely went home disappointed. Of course, they were let down pretty slowly. The meeting lasted nearly four hours.

The first item passed was an amendment to continue starting paid parking at 2 p.m. instead of reverting it back to 10 a.m. The 2 p.m. rule has been in effect since September, but was a temporary move that the council believed needed some evaluation before it could become permanent.

The other amendments included changing the maximum fee to $5 for the entire day and night combined (instead of $8), setting a flat fine of $15 per violation (instead of escalating $10/$15/$25 fees), and rearranging some of the parking zones (St. Charles Avenue will now be free).

For a few more details, see our previous story which outlined the proposals.

A couple of new things

One change that was brought to our attention tonight, but wasn’t on the agenda because it didn’t need council approval, is that city staff has extended the grace period in all three gated lots to 30 minutes. In other words, if you want to drop something off on Dickson Street (or eat dinner in record time), but don’t want to pay, you can park for free after 2 p.m. if you hurry.

Alderman Robert Rhoads proposed adding a $600 annual parking permit for the Dickson Street area that could be used on any of the on-street spaces. Pricey as it sounds, if you’re currently spending more than $11.50 per week on parking (2.5-ish nights), this could actually save you some money. It passed unanimously.

Business owners speak up

There were a handful of business owners, employees and residents who spoke out against paid parking in general, but the only suggestion which gained any ground came from the Downtown Dickson Save Our Street Society.

Several members of the newly formed non-profit were in attendance, but it was Julie Sill, owner of Common Grounds and Hog Haus who spoke on behalf of the group.

“We need to find a sweet spot to make it a win-win for everyone involved – our customers, the city, the Walton Arts Center and the merchants,” said Sill. “What is that sweet spot? We don’t know, nor does anyone else at this time.”

Sill said her group would like to see another review of paid parking in 30 days and possibly one every month for a full calendar year. This, she said, would give staff a chance to fully study the tax and parking revenues, especially during the slower months when there are no students, no SEC football games, and no Bikes, Blues & BBQ.

“This would allow the city to compare 365 days to 365 days,” said Sill.

Ward 2 alderman Matthew Petty agreed and urged Mayor Jordan and city staff to continue to look at the numbers.

“I think it’s data worth reviewing,” said Petty. “And in the future, if other council members believe they need to bring forth an action item, they would have that opportunity.”

Mayor Jordan agreed to continue to study the plan and proceeded with his final comments.

“We started this discussion on paid parking 10 years ago,” said Jordan, who served eight years on the council before being elected Mayor of Fayetteville. “If we needed a parking deck 10 years ago and we’re going to put in at least a 600-seat addition down there, how much more can you need it now?”

Jordan thanked his staff and the council for continuing to amend the plan in spite of the strong criticism they’ve received.

“No it may not be perfect,” he said. “And no, everybody may not like it. But somewhere we need to turn that corner and decide to build that deck.”