Downtown parking update: Ira Levy, Jerry Rucker seek changes to parking plan; McDaniel says ‘very small’ portion of Broad Street supports parking change. Next up: Amending key ordinances.

Downtown parking update: Ira Levy, Jerry Rucker seek changes to parking plan; McDaniel says ‘very small’ portion of Broad Street supports parking change. Next up: Amending key ordinances.

Parking issue discussed; meeting continues; watch webcast: Click here / Tonight’s agenda: City Commission

Businessman Ira Levy speaks to the commission following his polling downtown property owners and business owners about the downtown parking debate. He wonders about ‘miscommunication’ between downtown businesses and Downtown Development Association. Levy then reads the eight points on the petition signed by downtown businesses (see below).

The petition reads as follows:

  • We, the undersigned business owners and property owners, are in agreement for the following changes for downtown parking:
  • New signage directing people to the parking decks.
  • Signage showing available parking spaces and on which floor.
  • Brighter lighting in decks, in addition to elevator and daily maintenance and safety patrols.
  • Two-hour parking limit per space on Broad Street and OTR parking zones.
  • Purchase mobile tag reader.
  • No kiosk purchased or installed until a two-year data study is reviewed and discussed.
  • Free deck parking.

Tells commission they’ve signed up approximately 90 percent of the business owners and 90 percent of the property owners; asks them to reconsider the last vote.

Then reads a letter from Ballard Betz, chair of the DDA, explaining why he opposed the parking plan during the May DDA meeting. The letter supports much of what Levy outlined in the petition. Among Betz’s points: getting the license reader to enhancement enforcement; more signage; and a year-long delay in purchasing any kiosks.

Levy asked the commission to consider it all before moving forward. He also closes, asking about whether a fee will be charged — and to whom — for using the kiosk.

Up next: Jerry Rucker.

He talks about making a living on Broad Street over the years and witnessing the removal of the first set of parking meters. He details the changes on Broad Street, in first because of the Riverbend Mall.

The reason the meters were “taken up” was because of competition of the mall, Rucker says.

He commends the changes to downtown, including Town Green. But he also wonders what meters would mean to the annual Christmas parade and those who park early. Calls the parking decks “nasty, dirty” and that people are not going to use them. Says Rome has a “lazy problem” as they want to park near where they’re doing business — a fact that stretches back 60 years.

Rucker also says an hour for lunch (first hour free with meters) won’t work as people don’t dine in an hour.

He reiterates how one  parking place has yet to be added to downtown Rome.

Mayor Jamie Doss says the next big step will be amending the downtown ordinances, a two-step process. It will be a “very methodical, slow process.”

Doss says not another step will be taken “until we get the last one right.” Says there was a feeling after the May vote that there was two different groups. He wants “one Rome family” working out the issue.

Commissioner Craig McDaniel speaks up. Says some believe the May vote meant kiosks were on the way. McDaniel says only a plan was approved; kiosks would need to be part of a future ordinance. Says in all the feedback he’s received, “not one” was in favor of the plan approved in May. He wants all the signage up, that the decks are secure and clean and well-lit. He says “we have to listen first and foremost to the people who live here.” Says a “very small” part of Broad Street supports the plan.

McDaniel says he’d put it all in a motion if needed; Doss asked him to hold off for now.

Doss asks for a quick recess as the parking discussion ends.


PREVIOUSLY

(June 6, Hometown Headlines) Rome’s downtown parking debate is far from over.

In recent days, Ira Levy — the man many credit with spurring the revival of Broad Street thanks to various projects in the downtown neighborhoods — and colleagues have been circulating a petition, in part to power a bid to the City Commission to revisit the parking debate at Monday’s meeting (6:30 p.m.). He is scheduled to speak soon after meeting begins.

Levy discussed the petition and ongoing parking concerns during an interview on Hometown Headlines Radio Edition on WRGA 98.7 FM on Wednesday. The petition reads as follows:

  • We, the undersigned business owners and property owners, are in agreement for the following changes for downtown parking:
  • New signage directing people to the parking decks.
  • Signage showing available parking spaces and on which floor.
  • Brighter lighting in decks, in addition to elevator and daily maintenance and safety patrols.
  • Two-hour parking limit per space on Broad Street and OTR parking zones.
  • Purchase mobile tag reader.
  • No kiosk purchased or installed until a two-year data study is reviewed and discussed.
  • Free deck parking.

For more, contact Levy at iralevy@iralevy.com.

The petition follows the May 21 vote by the Rome City Commission in favor of a parking plan that gives one-hour free parking and then brings in a scaled budget of per-hour costs. It includes the addition of downtown parking meters with revenue tied to the existing parking enterprise fund. Passed in a 5-4 vote, the plan also would include creating signage for downtown parking decks, lighted crosswalks, more security and other parking updates. Click parking vote.

During that meeting, City Commissioner Craig McDaniel delivered an indicting review of city failures to do much of what is promised in the new parking plan. The money had been available, he said, adding that the parking meter system is  “a cash grab.”


Downtown Development Authority minutes, May 15. Note: These minutes have not been approved by the DDA, a move set for the upcoming June meeting.

Parking Plan Proposal – Parking Committee Chair, Commissioner McNiece recapped growth of Broad Street and stated in reaction to growth city and county built 3rd Ave parking deck after several studies, which resulted in continued success. She stated in order to cultivate the spirit of prosperity, other studies were completed, which lead to the most recent parking study.

For the last several years, the parking committee was charged with outlining new parking possibilities, one being the temporary 3rd Ave parking lot owned by Levy. McNiece asked members to think as visionaries and look to future. Today’s plan shifts free parking from on-street to off-street which greatly increases the amount of free spaces, there will be 1 hour free parking on-street without going to kiosk, it addresses main issues, such as current 2 hour parking limit per day, this plan will allow you to stay as long as needed.

McNiece stressed that the current plan was created after a lengthy process of listening to feedback.  She listed all public meetings: town hall at auditorium and forum, business visits, clubs, etc. The proposed hours are Monday through Saturday 10am – 8pm. Again, these hours have changed after great input per McNiece. She addressed the comment heard regarding the city making extra money from the plan. McNiece stated this was untrue and explained funds go directly to a parking enterprise fund.

All revenue must be used for a specific parking purpose. The purpose is to ensure future growth by increasing safety in decks and cleaner better lit decks.  With using decks more often, unwanted activities should decrease.

Promotion of expanded free deck parking is important. McNiece mentioned Betz and Shell feel a positive marketing plan is important for consumers to feel confident and see positives. Promotion of unlimited on-street parking will be important, as well as promotion of user-friendly kiosks, including ease of apps, plus having ambassadors on the street. The new license plate recognition system will be more efficient and will help with making future changes.

McNiece stated signage is huge with the public as the public has stated they can’t find the decks. New signage will enhance the appearance of downtown and the ease of parking for the consumer. McNiece also explained the desire for deck signage detailing how many spaces are available. Again, volunteers and ambassadors would be utilized during roll-out. A two month grace period is important. Citations would not be issued during this educational grace period. Business can continue to validate parking for customers.

The Roman Chariot service can transport visitors from the decks to Broad Street businesses. The enhanced website would be a good tool for information. The public would receive continuous updates.

Communication is key and a marketing plan will roll-out. McNiece stated if the DDA board approves, a recommendation will go to the city commission for approval. The LPR system and signage is the first step of the parking plan. If approved, several ordinances would be rewritten before installation of kiosks. McNiece stressed this has been a long, long process while gathering input and input will continue to be gathered.  Shell asked if marketing material was in place, such as videos, etc.

Blumberg stated it is currently being worked on pending approval. Blumberg emphasized the understanding of a very detailed marketing plan.

Shell said it can’t be about kiosks and paid parking. He mentioned our current website is not positive. Blumberg went over the number of businesses already visited. He stated some business owners, such as professional service owners have not been easy to reach. Staff made visits with other DDA volunteers and will continue the remainder of visits. Blumberg said a great benefit is the number of free spaces that will be available and this should be promoted in a positive tone.

Shell mentioned observing an individual having trouble operating the exit gates and McNiece agreed removing gates at the deck is beneficial. Blumberg asked the board to vote on moving forward with the proposed parking plan.

Assistant City Manager Eidson voiced city management feels this a positive step in the right direction for downtown. Input has been the driving force throughout the entire process. He said it was looked at prior to him working for the city and it has been a transparent process. He said downtown is evolving and this plan that supports the ever-changing environment.

Betz recalled City Manager Rich stating with or without paid kiosks Rome would move toward the LPR system and asked if that were true. Eidson replied this was true. Eidson said IT and Purchasing is meeting to discuss software and this is being worked on now. Smyth stated once the purchase is initiated, there is a 120 day timeline.

Betz asked Blumberg if signage and security will be addressed first, Blumberg answered signage and security is being addressed now.

Shell said he didn’t feel comfortable without seeing marketing plans now, like the event videos. Blumberg said if the plan is approved by city commission, the marketing will be focused on then.

Prusakowski said it’s important to have a positive spin from the beginning and highlight positives. Sams would like to highlight the benefits and stated we have the opportunity to craft that message right now. Staff stated the press release will go out with videos on social media following the vote.

Eidson reiterated that after today’s vote, the final vote goes to the city commission. Eidson feels confident we will continue to address the public perception of parking downtown.

Blumberg clarified this plan will be gradually implemented.

Sams motioned to move the proposed parking plan to city commission, with a second by Watters. Sams, Watters, Blumberg, Prusakowski voted for, Shell and Betz voted against. McNiece abstained.

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