Once again, a draft streetscape plan presented Thursday included a removal of parking spaces from the bays on Broad Street. And once again, downtown business owners voiced their disgust.
"They don't want to hear a plan," said Tice Brashear, the president of Brashear Realty Corp. on Broad Street, referring to consultant firms hired by the city. "They want to sell one."
Thursday's meeting at the Marbury Center on Broad Street was the final public hearing to discuss a streetscape draft plan for downtown Augusta. Two others have occurred in the past two weeks, with business owners opposing an idea that could relocate parking from Broad's middle parking bays and fill the spaces with a park setting.
Business owners argue that removal of spaces from the bays to a parking deck or behind Broad businesses would make parking inconvenient for customers and that a park isn't needed.
"Downtown Augusta is not ready for aesthetics," said Joe Smith, who is a partner in the Brass Ring. "Let us keep growing right now."
He added he feels "there's a hidden agenda" as to why parking is being removed from the bays.
On Thursday, David Robbins, of HOK Planning Group, an urban design firm assisting in the process, told an audience of about 30 that a removal of the bay parking spaces wouldn't occur before more parking is added elsewhere. The idea discussed Thursday was to have at least one and possibly three parking decks constructed fronting Broad at different cross streets.
Mr. Robbins said aesthetic improvements - such as a park setting in the parking bays - would help draw people downtown.
The streetscape plan, which would have to be funded through an upcoming proposed sales tax, started after city officials determined traffic lights needed upgrades on Broad. Other issues then sprang up.
Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 828-3904