During Monday night’s Warsaw Common Council Meeting Warsaw City Planner Jeremy Skinner and Warsaw Police Department Lt. Kip Shuter presented an ordinance amendment that would establish several areas of parking without the current 2 hour parking contraints currently set throughout on and off street parking in the downtown area (See larger map).
Though parking issues have plagued the city for years, parking concerns vary between employees and consumers. For those who work in the downtown area, the 2 hour time constraint placed on parking forces many to shuffle their vehicles continuously throughout their work day to avoid being fined with a parking ticket. For those who wish to shop, dine or visit the downtown area, finding parking within the core area of downtown can become difficult.
Currently, 2 hour free parking is established throughout all on-street parking locations in the downtown area. There are currently a total of 346 parking spots with a 2 hour time limit located between Buffalo Street on the west, Indiana Street on the east, Jefferson Street on the south and an alley on the north. According to the original parking plan, parking beyond the 2 hour limit during the hours designated either on the street or in any city lot, except on Saturdays, Sundays and the holidays, will result in a fine of $10 with a fine of $20 assessed for each subsequent hour of overtime parking.
In addition to the spots on street, a total of 150 off-street 2 hour parking spots also exist throughout the downtown area. Currently, there are no free unlimited parking spots on-street and a total of 63 free unlimited spots located off-street south of the railroad tracks on Jefferson and Lake Streets and South of the railroad tracks at the corner of High and Jefferson Streets.
According to Shuter, the new amendement would open up 97 parking spaces from 2 hour parking to unlimited free parking. The new plan will create 9 new spaces in 2 hour parking and 29 new spaces in free unlimited parking. The free unlimited parking areas will be moved to outside areas that according to Shuter, are little or seldom used.
“We have employees that park at or near their business and they do the rotation and the shuffling of (moving) their cars every 2 hours. We would like to give them locations where they can park their cars and they don’t have to shuffle them. The locations are a little bit further away and yes, they have to walk. In any bigger city you are going to have to walk a fair distance to get premium parking. This does provide premium parking for them. They don’t have to move their cars every 2 hours, they can leave it there all day long. This would open up about 97 parking spaces.”
Though the convenience of allowing free, unlimited parking spaces around the outer edges of the downtown area was noted, some, such as council member Jerry Frush, questioned whether the plan would lock visitors to businesses located in the free, unlimited zone out of nearby parking to their destination. Of particular concern to Frush, who is the Kosciusko County Historical Society president, was parking near the KCHS museum.
“The goal of what we are trying to accomplish is to utilize the spots that are being utilized least and make the spots that are being utilized the most available most of the time,” said Skinner. “At any given time there is always going to be space available within a block, within that radius, for someone to utilize. It may not be directly in front of the person’s intended use but the intent is to free up those spaces where it is utilized the most, not the least. The fact is, there are spaces that are not being utilized and then there are a small set of spaces that there is pressure being put on because you have too many people trying to compete for that space… There will be spaces availabe for people who want to come to the museum or wherever. They may have to walk but that is no different than getting out of your car at Walmart and walking three blocks to the store.”
According to the ordinance amendment, a portion of the main city lot (south lot) located between Buffalo Street and Indiana Street and north of Jefferson Street will be designated daily free parking with no time limitations. According Skinner, the new plan will add 39 free unlimited parking spaces to the lot. Skinner also states that leased parking spots within the city lot will remain largely the same with the north and south lots now including 8 spots each for residential parking leases.
“Currently (in the south lot) there are about 71 (2 hour) parking spaces and 69 leased parking spaces,” explained Skinner. “The leased spaces will stay pretty much the same –we will still have approximately 70 leased spaces. Among the leased spaces there will be 8 spaces identified for downtown residents available for them to occupy. Currently within this parking lot there are about 141 parking spaces, of which, about 72 are leased and the remaining 69 are 2 hour. Our proposal would be to have approximately 20 two hour and approximately 39 free unlimited and then roughly the same (as current numbers) leased spaces with an addition that eight of those would be for downtown residents. There are two other city owned lots. Both of them have (free) unlimited (parking) and one of them has partial lease (parking spaces), we would not be recommending to change those.”
The Common Council will have a second reading at the next meeting and encourages citizens and businesses to review the new downtown parking map to provide comments and questions.
“We had a great response with our surveys and we had lots of information. We went through several meetings and again, we are not done, we still have a lot to consider, but we wanted to get this out to the public for them to consider. We’re prepared to take this step, take this action and see what happens for a year. With 6 month blocks of time, its going to take a little time to figure out what people will do. I purposely put everyone on the council in at least one or two meetings to get everyone engaged. This has been a lot of work and I appreciate everyone’s work,” said Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer.
The Common Council will have a second reading of the ordinance at the next meeting and encourages citizens and businesses to review the new downtown parking map to provide comments and questions. A final consideration of the parking amendment will take place following the second reading in next month’s Common Council meeting.