Clayton News-Star

Business owners, town explore parking options in downtown Clayton

The Town of Clayton plans to turn the space between The Clayton Center auditorium and Horne Memorial United Methodist Church into an 18-space parking lot.
The Town of Clayton plans to turn the space between The Clayton Center auditorium and Horne Memorial United Methodist Church into an 18-space parking lot. ndunn@newsobserver.com

It’s getting tougher to find a place to park in downtown Clayton.

A steady stream of traffic now flows through Main Street daily, with people stopping to shop, eat or do business at lunch, at night or the on weekend.

During those peak times, the few public lots fill up quickly, and drivers resort to parking on the street. During downtown events and festivals, the cars spill over into residential areas.

Assuming even more people will be visiting the growing town’s core in the future, business owners and town staff are pondering how to create more parking. In a place where space is already limited, that can be tricky. However, stakeholders say it’s likely possible if everyone shares a little.

One plan would add about 60 spaces along a railroad corridor that runs parallel to East Main Street. The hope is that landowners along a roughly 700-foot section of the railroad – from Olde Town Supply to HomeTowne Realty – would agree to lease their properties, which could be combined into a larger public lot.

James Lipscomb, the co-owner of HomeTowne Realty, has been floating the idea to other businesses. He said most support the plan.

“We’re really trying to promote the feeling that what’s good for one is good for all,” said Lipscomb, who is president of the Clayton Downtown Development Association.

“We want to keep people from saying, ‘These spots are mine,’” he said.

The Town of Clayton is also backing the plan. Earlier this month, Town Manager Steve Biggs said his staff is helping Lipscomb form a coalition of willing parties.

However, even with buy-in from landowners, the parking coalition will also need the approval of the N.C. Railroad and Norfolk Southern to encroach on railroad right-of-way.

Lipscomb said he’s already working with the railroad companies to get approval for a private lot for CMC Electric, an electrical repair business whose building backs up to the railroad.

CMC has drawn the ire of several town councilmen because the business parks some of its vans overnight in the public Horne Square parking lot. The town even considered enforcing a long-ignored ban on overnight parking.

However, the planned private lot behind its building will allow CMC to move its vehicles from the Horne Square lot, opening up more space for the public, Lipscomb said.

Another plan on hold

Another plan that would also require the buy-in of multiple businesses is on hold.

Town Planning Director Dave DeYoung said the plan would add about 93 parking spaces through a interconnected grid of lots between Horne Square and Church Street.

DeYoung said the town offered to provide some drainage and infrastructure improvements in the area. In return, Clayton was asking businesses to sign a 20-year parking agreement.

While most businesses were on board, a couple didn’t like the idea, so the project was put on hold last summer.

“We were probably 90 percent there,” DeYoung said. “It’s not dead; it’s just on hold.”

One thing that could bring that idea back to life is the redevelopment of the former ABC Plumbing building at 220 E. Main St.. The town bought the damaged building last year, and DeYoung noted that the backside of the property has available space that could springboard a parking initiative.

Municipal lot

Parking can also be hard to come by near The Clayton Center, especially during performances, high-profile meetings and civic events. So the town’s 2015-16 budget includes money for an 18-space lot that should provide some relief.

The lot will go between The Clayton Center auditorium and Horne United Methodist Church. It will cost about $50,000.

DeYoung said the lot will benefit both the town and the church, which doesn’t have a designated parking lot. The Wagner House could also use the lot, DeYoung said.

The town owns most of the land. However, the church would have to sign off on the construction, DeYoung said.

Dunn: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104.

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