Beaufort News

Parking issues dominate Town Council meeting

Beaufort City Council members addressed one parking-related issue after another Tuesday including their concerns about the downtown paystation system, free holiday parking and a proposal for residential-only parking in portions of the Point neighborhood.

Council had requested an update from the Redevelopment Commission on the downtown parking enforcement system it implemented about a year ago and on the new electronic paystations that went live this summer.

The commission, Main Street Beaufort, USA and Lanier Parking Solutions, a private company known locally as Park Beaufort that was hired to design and enforce the new system should be handling the numerous complaints and kinks that arise, council said. All three of those entities get proceeds from parking revenues.

However parking issues still consume significant city staff hours, Mayor Billy Keyserling said. It's time for the three entities to meet with council to assess who's doing what and whether there are too many groups involved, he said.

"I have a sense that there are so many layers in all of this that we don't even know where to go," Keyserling said. "We're behind this and we want to make it work. We do get frustrated because we don't quite know where to go (when we hear complaints)."

After hearing a presentation from City Manager Scott Dadson, Councilman Mike Sutton asked Redevelopment Commission chairman Bob Pinkerton to come forward, saying he had called for a report from the group, not city staff.

"What I want to know is, what are the problems," Sutton said. "Where's Lanier in all of this. Where are the experts' recommendations? ... (Lanier) has already failed in my opinion, so we need to fix it."

The commission is mostly concerned with creating a pleasant experience for customers, Pinkerton said.

Along with Main Street Beaufort, USA and Lanier, the group is monitoring complaints and addressing them as they arise, he said.

Recently the city has put out more signs to let people know they have to pay for parking and made the paystation more user friendly, Pinkerton said.

The city also is looking into a program where merchants can validate parking for customers, among other improvements, Dadson said.

The commission also plans to address whether the city should reduce the parking rate for spaces not directly on Bay Street.

Customers currently pay $1 an hour whether they're parking in a two-hour spot on Bay Street or a four- or eight-hour spot on a street further from the main shopping and dining district.

Pinkerton said the groups hope to begin addressing that issue in the coming month.

In another parking-related discussion, some council members said Tuesday they worry a proposal for a residential-only parking in portions of the Point neighborhood might make the area feel like a gated community.

Council members heard a presentation from Paul Michau, the Point's neighborhood association chairman, who said property owners on Port Republic Street and three blocks of New Street have applied for a program that would help keep people from parking in front of houses for long stretches and also create safer, more passable streets.

"I have a little bit of an issue with making private parking on a public street," Keyserling said. "I'm wondering what other ways there might be to protect the rights of the people who live there." Other concerns included questions about whether the city should be addressing safety concerns that should be managed by the state Department of Transportation.

Council plans to continue discussions on both issues during a work session next week.

Council also agreed to continue the tradition of free holiday parking in December this year at two- and four-hour spots. Although it will be free to park, the city will still enforce the time limits.