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Wednesday, 13 December 2006 00:00

Sylva discusses downtown parking woes

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By Sarah Kucharski • Staff Writer

Parking along Sylva’s downtown Main Street is a challenge.

 

Drivers first must cruise the one-way street for a spot. If drivers find a spot, backing out of the angled spaces often is a leap of faith, as it’s almost impossible to see if cars are coming. Checking for vehicles’ reflection in large glass store windows helps some, and occasionally a pedestrian will put out a hand to stop traffic and wave for a driver to pull out.

But the biggest problem seems to be one of availability. Business owners and employees often tend to spend the entire day parked in one of the few spaces along the one-way street. The practice is making it hard for customers to find a convenient place to park, particularly for those quick trips just to pick something up and get back on the road.

Livingston Kelley, owner of Livingston’s Photo, is one merchant feeling the parking problem pressure. It’s a soapbox he admits he’s been on for a while, but so far nothing’s improved.

“I’ve heard discussions about parking for 35 years,” he said.

His customers most often are popping in to drop off or pick up pictures. But with business owners and employees taking up on-street parking, and customers coming downtown to eat or shop, there isn’t enough parking to go around, Kelley told town board members Thursday night.

Kelley asked if perhaps the town could put up universally recognizable signs directing drivers to the town’s municipal parking lot, located on Railroad Avenue just off of Main Street. The problem with that request? There already are signs. Granted the green and white signs are a little small, but they spell out their purpose pretty clearly — free parking for everyone.

It seems a case of out of sight, out of mind. The lot is just a little too far away for drivers who are used to the small town convenience of having their car right at hand. Parking in the lot would mean about a 50-yard uphill walk to get to Main Street.

The east end of downtown has its own parking lot where the Ritz Theater used to be and is regularly full.

“Unless I’m loading or unloading, I park in the Ritz place,” Marion Jones, a former board member and merchant, told town aldermen.

The issue has left town board members wondering what else they can do to encourage business owners and employees who tend to park once a day and stay to make use of the free municipal lot off Railroad Avenue and allow customers better Main Street access.

At one time, downtown spaces had time limits and a police officer assigned to enforce them. A similar arrangement might be what’s needed to keep the traffic flowing, board members said. Also, Jones said that he had spoken with Sam Cogdill, who formerly ran a car dealership at the east end of street, and the businessman said he might be willing to lease out parking spaces in the dealership’s old display lot. The dealership building has been sold and is in the process of being converted to a furniture store.

The town invited merchants and downtown employees to discuss parking at the next board meeting to be held at 7 p.m. Jan. 4.

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