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Parking, pedestrians and crosswalks, oh my

Fix a problem, create a new one. That’s how the cookie has crumbled lately in Sylva.

When the town board ordered business owners and their employees to keep their cars out of coveted parking spaces on Main and Mill streets so shoppers could frequent shops, the parking problems shifted to nearby side streets.

This, of course, was before Sylva town commissioners received the startling news they’d passed an unenforceable ordinance (see accompanying article). But, since they plan to correct that booboo soon, business owners in the newly congested parking area are left wondering what can be done to help them out, too.

Parking has become a particular issue in front of City Lights Bookstore, an independent bookseller on East Jackson Street. Chris Wilcox said he’s seeing downtown employees fill the limited number of spaces available in front of the bookstore. He and his employees park at the nearby Methodist Church, and they are trying to let customers know that they can park there, too, except during church events.

Town commissioners aren’t unsympathetic. They’ve acknowledged during the past two meetings that City Lights and other side-street enterprises are getting parking fallout from the new ordinance, passed (well, passed but unenforceable) this summer.

It looks like side streets could be added to the ordinance, or, as it were, Ordinance Take 2. Commissioners seem loath to rush into things. Once burned, twice shy?

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“I know parking is a very sensitive issue,” Reuben Moore, a division operations engineer for the state Department of Transportation, astutely noted at last week’s town board meeting.

This before telling commissioners the parking on Main Street is creating some visual danger at crosswalks. As in, motorists can’t always see pedestrians stepping off onto crosswalks.

Additionally, there are simply too many crosswalks in Sylva, Moore told commissioners.

“We really have crosswalks that are on top of one another,” he said.

Commissioner Harold Hensley continued to push for a “please-don’t-run-over-the-pedestrians” sign at the end of Main Street. This where two lanes drop to one, and cars jockey for position — all while unaware pedestrians attempt to pass from one side of the street to another, via a crosswalk.

After a bit of minor and friendly negotiating, the town agreed to eliminate one parking space in return for the transportation department putting up a warning sign. That will make it easier, Moore said, for motorists to see pedestrians.

Additionally, a committee will be formed to review the overall crosswalk dilemma.

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