Columbus officials: Downtown has enough parking spaces

Published 6:48pm Monday, September 24, 2012

Town responds to letter to editor
Columbus Mayor Eric McIntyre said there are enough parking spaces downtown to accommodate businesses. The problem, he said, is how the spaces are being utilized.
Columbus Town Council met Thursday, Sept. 20 and discussed parking and other issues related to two private businesses downtown. The discussion was in response to a letter to the editor submitted by Elton Cochran, which said it seems that Columbus tables every issue (see page 9 in the Aug. 22 Bulletin).
Cochran’s letter said some tabled items include parking on the east end of town, the new Republican Party building fence and “private parking lot” and the new two-hour parking ordinance that is not being enforced.
McIntyre said the Republican Party building is a matter between two private parties and the town decided it was not going to get involved in the matter.
“This has all been discussed and settled, so I don’t know where this is coming from,” said councilwoman Margaret Metcalf.
Through research, town manager Jonathan Kanipe determined that town council has discussed the private party matter 11 times since February 2011.
“That’s 60 percent of the meetings we have had,” McIntyre said.
Metcalf said on the parking issue the town has given solutions to the problems by asking employees to park in spaces other than in front of businesses.
“There’s only so much we can do,” said Metcalf.
The town has heard requests in the past to purchase land for a public parking lot to serve downtown businesses, particularly on the block that includes Copper Mill, the Brick, Calvert’s and the Second Chance Thrift Store, among other businesses. Columbus officials have said there are almost always empty parking spaces in front of Stearns and along other blocks downtown and there are no available lots closer than those spaces for the town to purchase.
Columbus Police Chief Chris Beddingfield also said his officers have done parking studies recently and determined there are almost always open spaces at any time of the day downtown. Those open spaces just may not be in front of the block that includes the Brick, he said. On only one occasion during the study were there were no parking spaces open, Beddingfield said.
For the last five to six weeks, Beddingfield also said a part-time officer has gone into each business to alert them he was doing parking enforcement and employees whose vehicles were in violation moved them with no problems.
“In my opinion that’s not, not doing anything,” Beddingfield said. “We’re going above and beyond. We are addressing the problem the best way we can address it.”
Beddingfield also said the town has offered legal, town and law enforcement advice on the private property matter between the Republican headquarters and the Brick concerning access to the rear of the property. He said the town cannot police on private property and the town cannot make decisions regarding private property.

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