The committee also agreed to look closely at changing the only remaining section of back-in parking to pull-in parking.
The meeting began on Block Avenue where city engineer Chris Brown led a group of business owners, city staff and council members on a tour of the construction site while pointing out the latest changes to the plan. Removing some parallel parking spaces and decreasing the size of a few islands were part of the tweaks the committee recently asked city staff to make. These changes would help widen the street in some areas and create loading zones for delivery vehicles.
Once the tour ended, the meeting moved to the third floor of City Hall.
Before the discussion began, Street Committee chair Bobby Ferrell said he believed the largest concerns the he has heard up to this point have been addressed. “They were all action items and there has been action on them,” said Ferrell.
The audience, however, said the tweaks weren’t enough.
After seeing first-hand how narrow the driving lane becomes when cars are parked on both sides of the road, business owners said it’s simply too tight for any parallel parking to remain during the day when the street is at its busiest.
“In my understanding, the plan was to create a thoroughfare from Dickson to the downtown square,” said Tim Snively, a lawyer whose office is at 115 North Block. “But when you get all these cars jammed up in there, it’s like driving through a Walmart parking lot,” he said.
Little Bread Company co-owner, Hannah Withers said her delivery driver has given up completely on using Block Avenue, and now hauls delivery cases through an alleyway using a dolly hand truck.
Camille Garland, a hairdresser at Shag Salon, said removing the parallel spaces is important, but that her biggest problem was with the back-in parking on the north section of the road near Dickson Street.
“I have a pretty large clientele and I have heard nothing but negative,” she said. “We don’t want to move, but we can’t lose clients over parking.”
Unless the islands were reconfigured, Brown said switching from back-in parking to pull-in parking would result in the loss of even more parking – about seven or eight more spaces.
Alderwoman and Street Committee member Brenda Thiel said she agreed that parallel parking must go and that she’s had reservations about back-in parking from the beginning.
City staff’s research said the process of backing in and pulling out of a parking space is less dangerous, however, Thiel said she thought it was safer to back out because a vehicle’s reverse lights are an alert to oncoming traffic.
Thiel moved to have staff look at the costs associated with removing back-in parking completely. She also moved to strike all parallel parking during the day.
Both motions passed.