Earlier this year, Mayor Dennis Phillips asked the Downtown Kingsport Association to look at the downtown parking situation and return with recommendations. The DKA held monthly meetings since March with downtown business owners, employees and residents along with city staff and police officers.
Last week, the BMA gave final approval to a change in city code, eliminating its tiered system for parking fines in the downtown area and switching to a flat rate fee of $25 for all violations. The motivation for the change is to encourage employees of downtown business — especially along Broad and Market streets — to not park in the spaces along the street, directly in front of the buildings.
The DKA is planning to do what it calls “positive parking incentives” such as encouraging businesses to obtain parking passes from the city that allow customers to park downtown for more than two hours. Another idea from the DKA is to offer coupons and discounts to random customers who use city parking lots.
At a BMA work session on Monday, Kingsport Planning Director Lynn Tully gave an update on the residential aspect of downtown parking and what steps are being proposed to accommodate people living downtown. Concerns have been with overnight parking availability, the distance to convenient parking and the number of handicapped spaces available.
City staff and the DKA recommended the city implement a residential parking permit program, where residents could purchase a parking sticker allowing them to park overnight in one of the 10 city-owned parking lots or along any street in downtown, except Broad and Main.
The residential parking stickers would be issued annually for one vehicle and be nontransferable. Another recommendation would be to allow visitor passes for residents to purchase from city hall.
Tully noted that more than 1,100 spaces are available throughout downtown, including 35 handicapped spaces available in the eight-block core area of downtown. In light of this, city staff and the DKA offered no recommended changes for the distance or handicapped parking concerns.
Downtown resident Mary McNabb asked about residential parking two weeks ago when the issue first came before the BMA and again earlier this week at Monday’s work session. McNabb offered a number of complaints, including how residents were not involved in the meetings with the DKA and city staff; that the process was being rushed to accommodate the businesses; and how there are plenty of unresolved concerns, such as if someone owns two vehicles.
McNabb also said the meetings were never announced, and none of the downtown residents she knows attended.
Sherri Mosley, executive director of the DKA, said the meetings were open to anyone who wanted to come, noting some downtown residents have attended the meetings. A notice for the meetings did not run in the Times-News, nor could a notice be found on the DKA website and Facebook page.
The next meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m., Sept. 11, at the DKA office, 229 Broad St. In an email to the Times-News, Tully said input from residents and the BMA would be discussed in this meeting. A final recommendation on how best to address residential parking in downtown will eventually come before the BMA for final approval, Tully said.