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Maxed out: parking crunch in Hazelwood will soon be fixed

fr hazelwoodparkingWaynesville is stepping up to the plate to solve a parking bottleneck in Hazelwood Village, with plans to double the size of the public parking lot and spiff up its curb appeal.

No one feels the parking crunch more than Pam and Kristen Allen, the mother-daughter duo behind Nettie’s Bakery, a bookend on the far end of Hazelwood’s shopping district.

“We get a lot of complaints that there is not enough parking,” said Pam.

“At least five times a day,” said Kristen.

“They say they drive around until something opens up,” Pam said.

There’s fewer than 45 parking spaces to go around in Hazelwood — 12 parallel spots along the street and 31 in a public parking lot. There’s a few do-it-yourself spots if you know where to look, but the shortage is undeniable. 

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“I think they could grow more if they had more parking,” said Gene Messer, who’s in town to get a prescription at Waynesville Pharmacy one morning last week.

“We got here at 10 a.m. and I thought ‘whoa, what are all these cars doing here?’” said Julie Reed, who was walking back to her car after shopping at Hazelwood Soap Company.

With Hazelwood’s storefronts nearly full and shoppers lingering longer, Hazelwood’s lone public parking lot hasn’t kept pace.

“We know more parking is needed,” said David Foster, the town of Waynesville’s public services director. 

“It’s a growing area,” agreed Daryl Hannah, the town’s street superintendent. Without enough parking, “People will bypass it altogether, which we don’t want.”

The town’s in a tight spot, however. It wants to do its part for Hazelwood by providing parking, but the town doesn’t own any property in Hazelwood.

The public parking lot that anchors Hazelwood now is leased by the town for $650 a month from the Forga family, long-time property owners in Hazelwood. The town has been on a month-to-month lease for more two years now while working out a new long-term lease with the Forga family.

The town wants to give the parking lot a makeover — expanding the number of spaces from 31 to at least 60, and as many as 90, as well as adding trees, better lighting and a few benches.

“I think it would be a great investment for all of Hazelwood,” Hannah said.

It’s also the town’s way of supporting economic development and revitalization.

“When’s the last time you went to Walmart and couldn’t find somewhere to park? It provides a small retail district the ability to compete with the larger retail complexes,” Foster said.

The parking lot expansion and improvements will cost up to $100,000, an expense approved earlier this month by the town board.

To gain more spaces, the parking lot will be expanded to the rear and into the far left corner, wrapping around the back of Hazelwood Soap Company. The cinderblock building, long home to Bill’s Barber Shop, which recently closed, will be bulldozed. Trees and lighting would be installed throughout.

The new-and-improved parking lot calls for a small landscaped square with benches and a public art sculpture of a Plott Hound.

“You want a public amenity to draw people in,” Foster explained.

The improvements will arguably make the parking lot more valuable, however. The town didn’t want to foot the bill for improvements and ending up with a bigger monthly lease to boot. 

“We have offered to increase our rent payments because we will be getting more spaces, but by the same token because we are fronting the money for the improvements, the property owner acknowledges that the town is investing in their property,” said Town Manager Marcy Onieal. 

While the deal isn’t finalized, the town has reached a tentative agreement that lease payments won’t be increased — amounting to a break on what would otherwise be a lease hike — in exchange for the town paying for the upgrades. If it’s inked according to plan, work would be completed as soon as it’s warm enough in the spring to put down asphalt.

Back on the street, the Allens were thrilled to hear a parking expansion was in the works.

“Tell the town thank you from Nettie’s Bakery,” Pam said. “The parking and benches and trees go hand in hand with the gentrification that is happening in Hazelwood.”

So far, business parking behind the shops can accommodate most employees, so they aren’t competing for spots with their own customers.

As far as problems go, a parking shortage isn’t a bad one to have.

“I always tell my tenants parking is a double-edged sword. When it starts getting difficult to park then you know you are where need to be,” said John Burgin, one of the largest property owners in the business district.

Town Manager Marcy Onieal said the parking expansion will hopefully set Hazelwood up for the future.

“We are talking about doubling or tripling the available spaces. If they become so successful that this is also not enough capacity, then we would have to address that at that time,” Onieal said.

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