Above please see a clip of City Commissioner Craig McDaniel’s assessment of the downtown parking plan as well as related issues such as parking deck safety and upkeep as well as needed signage. McDaniel announced his intent to vote against the plan and chided the commission and the city for failing to act on basic parking needs. He calls the parking plan a basic cash grab that would do nothing to add “a single parking space” downtown.
You also can watch the entire parking debate by clicking here.
Key part: How paid parking would work if the city commission vote stands:
- First hour, free.
- Second hour, is $1.
- Third hour, $2.
- Fourth hour and each additional hour: $5 per hour.
- Parking meters enforced Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.
For most of two hours, Rome city commissioners heard business owners, citizens and others talk about the pros and cons of the downtown parking plan thrust before them in less than a week following a 4-2 vote by the Downtown Development Authority.
Concerns about severe customer reaction — including taking their business elsewhere — were mixed with views about thinking downtown the road and future parking needs.
Once the public session of the meeting concluded, Mayor Jamie Doss polled each commissioner for their thoughts. Evie McNiece chided her colleagues, saying they needed to do their job by thinking about the future and what downtown needs to grow. Commissoiner Craig McDaniel, who served on the committee forms to make Rome more business friendly, said this parking plan was doing exactly that. He said the commission had failed to adequately spend existing dollars to make parking decks safe, to add needed signage. McDaniel said the plan did nothing to create one additional parking space and basically called it a money grab.
The vote went like this:
- For: Collins, Slack, Irmscher, McNiece
- Against: Davis, McDaniel, Quick, Stevenson.
- Tie-break, in favor: Doss.
Below please find a running narrative from that meeting.
Mayor Jamie Doss recognizes registered guests (mostly for parking) and Doss says each will have up to five minutes. Additional speakers, not registered, will be allowed 2.5 minutes.
Ira Levy, award-winning downtown developer: Opens saying 30 years ago, a parking issue wouldn’t have been an issue. Describes issues with parking deck. Talks about how his taxes are up $2.5 million in 10 years. Says parking is supposed to be a collaboration between the city and downtown businesses. Says this could be “a loss of business for Broad Street.” Levy urges two hours of free parking; open decks for free parking; purchase signage to parking lots; buy a mobile tag reader to help track abuse. “See how these ideas work before you chase all the customers away” from downtown, he says in closing. (Loud applause).
Lisa Smith of Rabbit’s Nest of Rome: Tells of taking a risk when she moved her business from Dean Avenue to Broad Street and how parking changes could threaten her business. “I stand to risk and lose everything,” she says. Warns that parking change could lead to businesses failing.
Paula and Todd Conaway, Paula’s boutique: Says 18 years ago, Broad Street was dead but she — like others — saw potential. “Real worried because a lot of businesses . . . live day-to-day.” Talks of better plan to monitor and control parking violators whom she says are usually employers and employees. Wants plan re-evaluated. Questions why people are told parking deck spaces are all free even though some are already leased to businesses and residents. Do more evaluating before you jump the gun and hurt businesses, she says.
Todd Conaway: He also remembers the “ghost town days.”
Emily McKnight of DanceWorks: Says she’s been a business owner since 2011 and resident since 2012. Tells of her families who drop the children off, shop while the students are in class and dine together after class. “If you make them pay to park, they won’t stay,” she says. “No, they will not stay; they will not pay to park.” As for parking deck: McKnight says she’s in the Cotton Block but the deck is across Second Avenue near Town Green. Questions a family “hiking across Second Avenue.”
Ryan Earnest, president and CEO, Heritage First Bank: Fully supports what the previous speakers have said. He commends the commission and others for making downtown prospers. Says shareholder of Heritage First have invested almost $5 million in real estate (501 Broad St. and First Avenue). Also has issued loans of $15 million for downtown businesses. Says the bank is built on relationship and has 10,000 customer interactions per month. Commends fellow businesses for building the success on Broad Street that could be jeopardized by the parking plan.
Terri Morgan: Identifies herself as a frequent downtown user but not a business or property owner. Commends the proposed parking plan. “We can’t keep going the way we’re going” as more businesses and more residences are added to Broad Street. Says she uses the deck two to three times a week; says they can be cleaner and monitored better. She asks businesses to support the parking plan “even if it comes with a few tweaks.”
Megan Watters of Megan Watters Designs: Is a member of the Downtown Development Authority. Supports the license plate reader idea. “I’m a supporter of the parking plan.” Says it gives her some options she currently doesn’t have.
Wayne Robinson of Robinson Holdings. Owns three properties on Broad Street. Agrees that parking wasn’t an issue years ago but has become one. He supports the parking plan as it looks to the future. He believes the plan will open up spaces in front of businesses and says he “fully supports” the plan.
Bob Blumberg, owner of Seasons and Johnny’s Pizza; also DDA chair: Says he, Ginny Kibler (Harvest Moon) and Wayne Robinson together own 10 properties downtown and all agree change is needed. “Facing a problem that requires action and multiple years” of review, he says. “We have a good problem,” he says, and it needs to be addressed now to support future needs.
Doss asks others not registered to speak to raise their hands. Six do.
Joan Brady, Crawdaddy’s: Say all in the room love Rome. Says she did a poll on Facebook page and the resounding answer was no to paid parking; that they’d go elsewhere. “It’s been a disaster… from what our people (customers) said.
Hair salon owner: Signed new lease even with increased rent. Says customers are telling her they won’t come downtown with paid parking. Says she pays several hundred dollars a month to validate customer parking.
Taylor Waters?: Saw she spends five hours a week downtown. Says never had a ticket; always finds parking. Her two fears: $10 she would pay to park wouldn’t go to the businesses. The parking money she pays takes away from her discretionary income spent at downtown businesses. Says the parking decks wouldn’t work for her and her daughter as they’d have to hike from the deck to the Cotton Block.
Speaker/male: “I am cheap and lazy… I am a millennial.” Says he moved here to avoid such issues. Says his business is digital and he spends a lot of time at Swift & Finch – but that will stop if there’s paid parking.
Mark Cochran, Cevian Design, and leading parking plan advocate: Says he has sold his downtown business and hopes to reinvent on Broad Street. Says downtown buildings have even more potential for growth. So without a plan, he and others who invest in downtown will stop doing so.
Jan Ferguson, Ford, Giddings & Kane: Says some of the changes can be done incrementally before adopting such a parking plan. Says signage is needed. Says license plate reader is needed.
Lisa Landry, Living & Giving: Supports taking smaller steps first. Says she will look off Broad Street if she sees any decrease in business because of paid parking.
Ann Pullen, Cotton Block property owner: Says she doesn’t oppose a parking change but says other issues haven’t been thoroughly considered. Says Cotton Block could suffer as it doesn’t have close access to a parking deck. “Take it slow; consider what some of the pitfalls will be.”
Harry Brock, downtown business owner and vocal opponent of the parking plan: Says there are 15 vacant storefronts downtown. Says 115 potential new residences. Says people need to do an audit of the cars parked at 4 a.m. and how vacant it really is (alluding to residential parking needs). Says he’s concerned about future commissions and what parking regulations they’d assign to the meters (i.e., no free hour).
Doss concludes speaking time; turns to Commissioner Evie McNiece. She praises the “democracy” of the meeting. Cites some excellent questions. Says they’ve had three parking studies in recent years. Consults have urged the city protect the “access” to downtown. Says as commissioners, she and her colleagues have to look at the future of the city.
Makes a motion “that we go ahead and approve this plan.” Says the city has failed in some areas of parking already. Wants a cleaner, safer parking deck. Get the lights fixed, she says. Safety, signage need to be addressed. McNiece says the city doesn’t have the money needed to do things, such as improving the crosswalks.
“My motion is we implement the total plan but we don’t do it immediately,” McNiece says. Says something needs to be in place and chides colleagues if they don’t see their duty. From the commissioners:
Sundai Stevenson says she believes in change but this might not be the plan to do it.
Milton Slack: Recalls all the changes on Broad Street and says he wants to move forward with a vision for the future. Says the plan might need tweaks… I will vote yes.
Bill Irmscher: Says this is a tough decision. “I like the idea of incremental stages.” As Mark says, we “need to look to the future.” “There’s a lot of merit to it but I’ve not made up my mind how I’m voting yet.”
Bill Collins: Cites trust in Ira Levy but also trusts others in the room. “The whole idea of downtown going forward has to do with parking,” he says, citing what the community learned on its recent trip to Chattanooga.
Wendy Davis: Praises Doss for the openness of the meeting. “Change is my middle name” but also perception is reality, that it would be a done deal … says she doesn’t understand why “we’ve pushed the accelerator on this.” Like to “see us take more time.” Plus: “I don’t think this plan thinks far enough.” Says we should be looking even 50 years down the road. Says work needs to be done now to fix security and other concern.
Randy Quick: Says he’s spent countless hours downtown Rome over his career in radio.
Craig McDaniel: Cites recent business development committee formed because of the feeling the city wasn’t business friendly. Says Monday night, they’re hearing from businesses who don’t want the plan. Says the city has the money to make the needed changes now but have chosen not to do so because of other needs. “there was a time I was in favor of parking meters on Broad but I don’t know.” Says plan doesn’t give new parking places, only raises money.
Jamie Doss: Says he agrees with Harry Brock who says this plan won’t fix the problem. Says he wants those in the room to work together to fix the problem. Closes by saying “this plan is focused on the future.”
The Rome City Commission will meet tonight at 6:30 at City Hall. On the agenda will be a discussion on parking in Downtown Rome including the proposal from the Downtown Development Authority to use meters on Broad Street from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday with the first hour free. After that, prices start at a dollar per hour and increase every 60 minutes. In exchange, parking in the downtown decks will be free (excluding those currently paying for reserved parking on the lower levels). (Background)
According to the agenda, there will just be a discussion of the plan, but no resolution is listed for a vote. Rome businessman Ira Levy is also listed on the agenda as a guest to discuss downtown parking. Also. Bob Blumberg, chair of the DDA, is scheduled to brief commissioners during the caucus before the 6:30 p.m.
Look for a large crowd to attend this evening. Organized opposition to the parking plan has formed with members scheduled to be at the 6:30 p.m. meeting.
Aside from the parking issue, the City Commission is expected to approve a bond resolution for $4 million to install at least six covered courts to the Rome Tennis Center at Berry College. Agenda
The Floyd County Board of Commissioners will meet on Tuesday, May 8, 2018, in the Community Room, Suite 206, on the second floor of the Floyd County Administration Building, 12 East 4th Avenue, Rome, Georgia. Caucus will begin at 4:30 p.m. in the Commissioners Caucus Room, Suite 204, followed by the Board Meeting at 6:00 p.m. The meetings are open to the public.
On the agenda will be four second readings of rezoning requests, along with discussion of an events agreement to bring the Northwest Georgia Hot Air Balloon Festival to Rome’s Russell Regional Airport on September 14-16, 2018. Agenda