Downtown parking a problem, options discussed at Committee meeting

By Beth Anderson on January 31, 2015 at 7:10am

Ward 1 Alderman Bill Scott led the discussion at yesterday’s meeting of the Jacksonville Planning and Public Works Committee, where the issue of downtown parking was the only item on the agenda.

Scott opened the meeting with complaints he had received from local businesses and senior citizens that have been unable to find adequate parking in the downtown shopping area. Many options for solving the issue were discussed, including designating spots for seniors only, cutting down on the current number of handicap-only spots on the square, and fitting more spots into current parking locations.

Also discussed was the possibility of enforcing existing city ordinances designating the area around the square as 2-hour parking only.

“It’s still an ordinance, it’s not posted, but at some point we can put signs back up and start issuing tickets. We probably won’t do that until the downtown construction is finished and we do a little more through signage inspection on what we have got out there. We might change some stuff,” Stated Scott.

According to the engineer present at the meeting, the construction around the Square is on schedule to be finished by the end of May, which will help alleviate the parking problems.

The cause of the parking issue is unclear, but those at the meeting said that residents of downtown have been known to park on the street for days at a time, and employees at the downtown businesses sometimes park directly in front of other stores for their entire workday. Scott ended the meeting by encouraging people who will be downtown for a while to park in one of the municipal lots, which are open to the public.

“For the time being, I think the best thing is to be a good neighbor, and once you get your car unloaded to move it to the municipal lots. To really make it works is enforcement and that means issuing tickets,” Scott added.

The fine for breaking a Jacksonville parking ordinance is currently $35 if paid within the first 72 hours, and goes up to $50 after that grace period.