Jefferson City Council ends parking enforcement moratorium
COLUMBIA, MO (KMIZ)
The Jefferson City Council voted on Monday to amend its city code and eliminate the city's unmetered parking enforcement moratorium.
The measure was proposed by Ward 3 Councilman Scott Spencer, the Public Works and Planning Committee chairman. It ensured all parking signage Downtown matched with the city's parking ordinances. It was passed with just one opposing vote.
The move to eliminate the parking enforcement moratorium was an addition under “new business” at the end of the meeting. The discussion lasted roughly an hour.
During the discussion, Nathalie Newville, president of the Jefferson City Downtown Association, urged the city to put up more signs with stricter parking instructions. She also did not want to see the elimination of parking enforcement vehicles. However, she was opposed to the use of parking meters, especially on High Street, because she believes not having them encourages more business.
Talks began around Downtown parking after a bill was filed in the Missouri Senate that attempted to ban parking fees within a mile of the Capitol, except when enforced by a licensed peace officer. A House bill also tried to ban parking fees for parking on public streets.
Roughly 20 years ago the Jefferson Cities downtown district worked with the city to remove parking meters on High Street in an effort to make businesses more accessible to residents.
The policy allowed for free parking up to 90 minutes per day per block. However issues quickly began to arise.
“We don’t enforce parking on Saturday’s and the signage says we did, " Spencer said. "We were ticketing and fining people inappropriately for a number of years.”
Newville said incorrect signage was not the only issue.
“Say you came into the 100 block and you parked and you ran into coffee zone for your coffee. And then you came back three or four hours later and you parked in the 100 block for lunch at sweet smoke and maybe those did not equal 90 minutes but there was really no way to track that so you would get a parking ticket,” Newville said.
After years of handing out unjust tickets, some members of City Council decided to take immediate action.
The council approved a moratorium on the enforcement of unmetered parking zones in the downtown area at its May 1 meeting. The moratorium served as a temporary fix until the city could better address its parking problems. It was intended to remain in place until June 5.
However, it quickly led to more issues for local businesses because people could park in front of their store for eight hours a day without any fear of a ticket.
“People who worked in the area whether it was a business like a downtown business or whether it was a state worker, could come down and just park all day long,” Newville said. “And that really hurt our businesses because they need that turnover and that parking.”
The City Council not consulting with any businesses before implementing the moratorium added to the frustration.
Former Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin argued during the meeting that the lack of parking in front of stores is hindering business.
“Our customers know that finding a spot is usually the difference of them stopping and enjoying our downtown shopping," Tergin argued in front of the council. “Otherwise they go on. A customer told me today that it’s much more difficult for her to do business in the downtown and it’s easier to go somewhere else.”
WATCH: Jefferson City Council May 15 meeting
Newville was encouraged by the meeting, adding that she was proud of the businesses and residents who spoke up to help the City Council address the issue.
Spencer says that now that all the signage is correct, the City Council will take a deeper look into other issues surrounding parking so they can make the parking easier for “businesses, employees, shoppers and visitors to enjoy the downtown area.”