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Columbia officials exploring parking permit options in certain neighborhoods

The Columbia City Council has authorized a consulting firm to explore what a Residential Parking by Permit Only program in certain neighborhoods just outside downtown Columbia would look like.

It will cost the city about $125,000 for the consultants to develop a formal plan to implement the RPPO program in the defined areas, which could include the Benton-Stephens and East Campus neighborhoods.

According to a council memo, the money will be paid from the Parking Utility, specifically from parking permit fees from downtown garages and surface lots.

Residents in the Benton-Stephens neighborhood first agreed on a permit plan back in 2015, but it was scrapped due to personnel changes within the Public Works department. A second plan was abandoned shortly after when the director of parking services at the time, Drew Brooks, left his job in Columbia for one in Colorado.

Peter Norgard, the president of the Benton-Stephens Neighborhood Association, told ABC 17 News in an email that they learned of this latest effort in July from Dave Nichols, head of Public Works.

“City planners will work with this new team of consultants on an as-needed basis to develop a “cookie cutter” approach to streamline the enforcement process,” he said. “This does not imply RPPOs are going to be throughout the city, but eventually they could be in disparate neighborhoods within the city where parking pressures from external or internal institutional sources restrict available on-street parking.”

Some East Campus residents have long lamented a lack of adequate parking options in the neighborhood, but there hasn’t been any substantial solutions that have emerged.

“Constructive efforts to create a fair permit program could be helpful,” said resident David Mehrd. “Working out the details will be complicated. Past efforts within the neighborhood to come up with a mutually agreed upon approach to parking have not been successful.”

But East Campus Traditional Neighborhood Association president Tim Waid said there’s no parking problems on East Campus west of Ann Street, and a permit system is not necessary.

“The student are the primary constituents,” he said. “They don’t want permit parking, they don’t want fees.”

He said he hopes the consultants take the time to approach students in a modern way to find out what they want.

“The first reaction that I had was ‘I hope the consultants collect input and feedback from the student,'” he said. “We need it to be accessible for social media.”

According to a council memo, city staff will work with the consultants to form a parking advisory group made up of stakeholders from the affected neighborhoods in order to collaborate during the RPPO plan process. This project should take about 6 months.

The North Village Arts District implemented a parking permit program back in 2013. ABC 17 News reached out to the president of the neighborhood association to find out how their program is working, but we have not heard back.

The city council also approved the same consulting firm to do a baseline review of the city’s overall parking utility. That will cost about $50,000.

ABC 17 News reached out to council members Karl Skala and Betsy Peters, whose wards contain Benton-Stephens and East Campus respectively. Neither responded on Tuesday.

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