Durham council delays action on Ninth Street parking fees

jwise@newsobserver.comJanuary 23, 2014 

  • Downtown parking settled

    The City Council put a price on parking for downtown residents Tuesday night, but granted those who live there a five-year discount.

    In a nod to “urban pioneers,” council members voted unanimously to charge just half price for residents inside the Loop as of Oct. 1, 2013. Their price goes up to the regular rate on Jan. 1, 2019.

    “We’re pleased we got something,” said Coke Ariail, a downtown resident for more than 25 years who made a last-ditch plea for the city to leave residential parking free.

    Councilman Steve Schewel made the motion to approve the 50 percent residents’ rate instead of a three-year phase in to full rates the city Transportation Department had recommended. Three years at half price had been one of the department’s suggested alternatives, and Shewel made it five after Councilman Don Moffitt suggested 10 years.

    The council voted last year to raise fees for city lots and garages after consultants found that the fund they support, which goes for maintaing the lots and garages, was losing money. Residents raised a protest when they realized they were about to be charged for a privilege they had been enjoying for free.

    In 1992, having received special enabling legislation, the city granted residents free parking as an incentive to move downtown. Several years later, it instituted a $10 monthly fee but rarely enforced it, and by last fall 97 inside-the-Loop households held free parking permits.

    “Market rate” permits cost $55 a month for surface lots, $65 a month for garage spaces. Those do not guarantee a place to park, though, and 24/7 reserved spaces cost $90 a month.

    Staff writer Jim Wise

At City Councilman’s request Don Moffitt, council members sent a proposed lease arrangement, including fees, for a Ninth Street parking lot back to the city transportation staff, putting off a decision until at least mid-February.

Moffitt gave no reason for making the request, which his colleagues accepted without comment. Early last week, though, Transportation Director Mark Ahrendsen said in an email to Moffitt that he would confer with other city executives about concerns raised by Regulator Bookshop co-owner Tom Campbell.

Campbell had emailed council members to say he and “most everybody on Ninth Street” feel “bringing paid parking to Ninth Street will put at risk the continued viability of the Ninth Street shopping area.”

The transportation staff had recommended that city lease the 46-space Ninth Street parking lot and charge a $1 per hour fee to use it, while setting two-hour limits on street parking in the area. The city had leased the lot and allowed free parking since 1985. That lease ended when CPGPI Regency Erwin LLC bought the property in 2012, but the company allowed free parking to continue while negotiating new terms with the city.

City transportation’s proposal does not include charging for on-street parking. It does, though, mention that a consultant’s report recommends instituting on-street parking charges in the Ninth Street area at the same time they are imposed downtown. That date has not been set.

“A parking fee will erect a barrier between our businesses and our customers. And the draconian enforcement of the new parking regulations will compound this problem – exponentially,” Campbell wrote in an attached memo to council members titled “A Bad Idea. But there is another way,”

Campbell, who was out of town last week, said he wrote the council after conferring with fellow Ninth Street business owners Carol Anderson, of Vaguely Reminiscent, and Danielle Martini-Riosof the Blue Corn restaurant.

Paying the proposed base lease rate of $6,875 per month could be covered with just 7 percent of the tax revenues from new development around Ninth Street, wrote Campbell, a former City Councilman.

“Is 7 percent of the new tax revenues that our businesses have made possible too much to ask, so that our businesses are not harmed – perhaps irreparably – by the growth we have engendered?” he wrote.

Wise: 919-641-5895

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