Tryon eyes parking solution

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 27, 2010

The Town of Tryon may have found a solution to downtown parking issues it has struggled with for at least a decade.
Tryon Town Council discussed Tuesday implementing an ordinance similar to one used by the Town of Sylva, which restricts merchants and downtown employees to off-street parking areas. The fine in Sylva for violators is $50.
“I think it’s time to do something,” said councilman Doug Arbogast.
Tryon officials have heard complaints for years that downtown employees take up retail parking spaces and hurt downtown businesses. Some merchants in particular have been criticized for parking in front of businesses all day.
The town strengthened its parking ordinance in recent years and enforced the ordinance at times, but found that employees would see officers marking tires and simply move their car to a different space. The town has had two-hour parking signs in place for years, but the ordinance has not been enforced recently.
Tryon Town Councilman Austin Chapman said the problem he sees with the Sylva approach is when an employee wants to do business downtown during non-working hours.
“I don’t see how you enforce it, I guess is my problem,” Chapman said.
Tryon Town Manager Justin Hembree said the town could either issue some type of sticker to downtown employees or enforce it like some other town ordinances, which are complaint-driven. He also said he spoke to a Sylva official who said once the town approved the ordinance they saw no other issues.
“I’ve sat here and listened for nine years and every idea we’ve come up with has a ‘what if,’” said Tryon Mayor Alan Peoples.
Downtown business owner Mary Prioleau suggested the town make some revenue off the new venture and charge new employees $1.50 to $5, or whatever fee the town determines, to buy a sticker.
The town could also give out placards for employees to place in their windshields when doing other business downtown to help prevent ticketing employees when they are not at work, she said.
Hembree has met recently with downtown business owners and said he got positive feedback about Sylva’s approach to parking.
Hembree said the Sylva ordinance was suggested by a local resident after the town held a public informational meeting last month asking for the public’s suggestions on how the town should handle commercial development. Downtown parking was one issue that arose at the public meeting.
Tryon currently charges $15 for a parking ticket. The town has not decided yet what fine it will implement for employee violators if a new ordinance is approved.
Hembree said the town could draft an ordinance specific to Tryon and bring it back to council in January, after looking into areas to designate for employee parking. Most retail blocks downtown have parking in the rear of the building and back doors, but the block from Morris the horse to the railroad tracks does not have public rear parking.
“I’d love to see (a draft) in January and start enforcement in March,” Peoples said.
Prioleau complimented town officials Tuesday at the close of the meeting on their quick response to several issues that have arisen in recent months, including parking and work to strengthen the town’s zoning ordinance for commercial development.
“Two and a half months ago I started calling ya’ll hysterical over some things,” said Prioleau. “I think it’s remarkable what has been done. I think it’s phenomenal how hard and steadfast people have come together and agreed to disagree but move forward.”
Peoples responded, “You know what that says? Nearly perfect. Always Tryon.”

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