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City Council remains divided over new parking ordinance

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Councilmembers expressed their support of an ordinance updating parking regualtions Uptown, while others expressed concerns and dissent.

The Athens City Council approved an ordinance after much debate on Monday, Oct. 15 that will adjust parking regulations in town.

The ordinance, which the council remained divided over, will enforce parking meter fees until 8 p.m., instead of the previous time of 6 p.m., on all days except Sundays and holidays. The council did not specify when the ordinance will go into effect.

It was introduced by Councilmember Chris Fahl, who said that the intent of changing the time is to disincentivize store employees from parking in the street. Employees park all day, as opposed to patrons who complete their business, then leave — quickly opening up a parking space for other patrons, Fahl said.

Another purpose for changing the time is to help raise funds for the installation of smart parking meters uptown, Councilmember Pat McGee said.

Mayor Steve Patterson supported the ordinance, citing similar reasons as Fahl.

“It’s rotating people off those spaces at a much more rapid rate, which improves the economics for those who have businesses in the uptown area,” Patterson said.

McGee voted against the ordinance. Numerous low-income students and workers expressed concerns that they will have to pay more to park their car in the evening because of the time change, McGee said.

“People want to go to a movie … they park at 5 p.m. and then, you know, it’s 7 p.m. and they’re over the two-hour limit if they haven’t done something to pay that meter or move their car … then they can be subject to a $20 ticket,” McGee said.

The parking garage located on Washington Street is an alternative parking location for city drivers. But inside is a metered fee, which is enforced all day, every day except for Sunday.

Both Councilmember Kent Butler and McGee expressed concerns for citizens who don’t feel safe parking in the garage. Fahl assured that there are security cameras on at all times inside the garage.

“There are some acts of vandalism (in the garage),” McGee said. There’s some kids who hang out and drink there … it needs better security.”

The city is looking into ways to improve the comfort of people using the garage by making aesthetic improvements such as providing brighter lighting and more artwork inside, Patterson said.

“I do want to remind the public that the parking garage will be less expensive than the change to the street and that we do have a large number of parking spaces (available), on a regular basis within the parking garage,” Patterson said.

Judith Roman, a community member, voiced her concerns with the ordinance to the council.

“You think they’re gonna listen to me?” Roman said. “Nobody listens to me … I just can’t believe they changed (the parking time).”

In other business, the council established East Park Drive as a new public right-of-way and discussed amending a city housing regulation that prevented homeowners without a proper license from installing water heaters.

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