If you park regularly on Calhoun Street in Old Town Bluffton, you might want to get in the habit of checking your watch before you leave your vehicle.
Town officials are considering a proposal that would limit parking on the road to two hours. After that, you could get a ticket. Currently, visitors are allowed to park there all day. The two-hour restrictions would likely be limited to the hours between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.
"We have had a lot of concerns from businesses and residents about parking (in the area around Calhoun Street)," Mayor Lisa Sulka said after a workshop held last week to update town council members on a study of the area.
By restricting the time cars can be parked on the road, town officials hope to generate more turnover and make it easier to find a space.
That would be good news for Kerry Bingham, who said she spent about 15 minutes looking for parking near Calhoun Street last Thursday afternoon.
"It's busier than normal today because of the (Bluffton) Farmers Market, but it can be tough to find a spot no matter when you come," she said.
Bingham said a two hour limit "sounds reasonable."
"I usually get my shopping done (within two hours), so that'd be fine with me," she said.
The limit would likely have the most impact on employees of Calhoun Street businesses, who would no longer be able to leave their cars parked on the road through their whole shift.
"We have a lot of employee's parking (right in front of businesses). So if you put in a two-hour limit it somewhat forces the employees to park a little farther out from their businesses," Sulka said. "It might cause some angst with the employees, but we're not going to throw them five miles down the road."
The restrictions may encourage business owners to seek partnerships with nearby organizations such as churches, which typically have plenty of parking available during weekdays, town manager Marc Orlando said.
Town staffers plan to put together a proposal that would spell out the specifics of the parking restrictions in the coming weeks.
That proposal will likely be introduced to the Town Council at next month's meeting.
LONG-TERM PARKING SOLUTIONS
In addition to the time restrictions, town officials are mulling some long-term solutions to Old Town's parking woes.
The town wants to add at least 68 new spaces along Dr. Mellichamp Drive. But that plan has been slow to materialize because the roadway is owned by the state rather than the town.
The M.C. Riley Sports Complex, just north of Dr. Mellichamp Drive, has a lot with 61 spaces that are rarely full.
Adding sidewalks to connect that lot to the Promenade would make Old Town visitors more likely to take advantage the lot at the county-owned complex, town officials say.
Bluffton's Town Hall on Bridge Street also has a public lot within walking distance of Old Town, but there are no sidewalks or pedestrian pathways there either.
"There are a lot of public lots, (new sidewalks) would be providing a direct link to them," Orlando said.
One way to provide a large number of spaces in a centrally located area of the historic district would be to build a parking garage.
Sulka and other town officials have so far balked at the idea.
However, momentum to build a garage could build depending on the results of the Nov. 3 election.
Cynthia Bensch, Sulka's lone challenger in the election, as well as several town council candidates, have said an Old Town garage would be a top priority.
Follow reporter Lucas High on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Lucas.
- With no solution in sight, Old Town parking woes continue to annoy merchants, residents, Aug. 28, 2015
- Old Town focus at Bluffton candidate forum, Oct. 21, 2015