Authority meets with downtown merchants on parking proposal

Proponents for a new downtown parking management plan sat down with downtown merchants this morning.

The merchants’ message was enforcement before meters.

The Downtown Development Authority of Augusta is continuing its outreach about a plan to manage Broad Street parking, which has a controversial component of installing parking meters.

David Hutchison, president of the Downtown Augusta Alliance, said he believes enforcement should be a low-cost the first step to improving the situation.

Hutchison, who run Book Tavern on Broad Street, said he would like to see an implementation plan that would incorporate parking meters if all other steps have been exhausted.

DDA executive director Margaret Woodard said the DDA has drafted ordinances regarding improved parking fine enforcement. They are currently being reviewed by the city’s law department.

Enforcement is being modeled off of Charlotte, N.C., she said, using a system of mediation to collect fines.

About 25 downtown merchants attended the morning meeting, raising other issues such as creating more parking places by switching parallel spots to angular spots and better enforcement on Saturdays.

Woodard said one of the common themes in questions about the parking management system have been where employees and residents would park if on-street spaces become metered.

She said that the next public meeting, Feb. 4, would address that concern with a better map of off-Broad Street downtown parking.

In December, the DDA board approved a proposal to implement a new parking management system that called for spending $1 million to install smart meters that would monitor 1,000 spaces in the Broad Street corridor.

Much of the meeting with the Downtown Augusta Alliance did not center around the meters.

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