Big changes could be coming to downtown parking if the Auburn City Council does not pass an ordinance to edit the parking amendments to the Auburn City Code that take effect Aug. 20.
City Manager Jim Buston and other city staffers worked closely with the Downtown Merchants Association to redefine downtown parking. They drafted an ordinance that amends three sections of the chapter that relates to parking in the Auburn City Code.
The ordinance as it is written will take effect as written Aug. 20, unless the Auburn City Council decides to alter it at their Aug. 7 meeting. There will be a public hearing, per the City Council's request, on the parking ordinance at the Aug. 7 meeting.
If the City Council does not vote to change the ordinance the following changes will take effect Aug. 20 as a result of the amendments to the Auburn City Code.
- Free parking on holidays will be eliminated.
- All metered parking, on and off street will be limited to two hours.
- All metered parking will increase to $1 per hour with a $2 charge for the second hour for on-street parking. This increase only applies to parking fees at kiosks. The cost for parking at coin meters will remain at 25 cents per hour with the new two-hour limit until they can be replaced with kiosks.
- Parking meter enforcement hours will expand to Monday through Saturday 8 a.m.- 8 p.m., with the exception of home football weekends.
- Parking violation fines will raise $10 each for the first, second and third violations.
On Tuesday, City Council members discussed making changes to the ordinance that would alter downtown parking.
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The council is considering changing the ordinance to keep free parking on holidays. These holidays include Auburn University breaks.
At this time, vehicles can park in an on-street space for two hours and other non-street space for up to four hours. The ordinance would limit all parking — on-street and off — to two hours.
Vehicles must be moved to another space or out of downtown public parking after the two hours expires. Vehicle owners cannot pay for another two hours for the same parking spot. Council members generally agreed to change the time limits to all be two hours.
They discussed changing the rate to $1 per hour, with no $2 charge for the second hour. This rate will be effective for the on-street and surface lot parking space in parking meter zones or areas with multi-space parking pay stations.
On-street parking spaces that are equipped with coin-operated mechanical parking meters for each space will remain at 25 cents an hour with a two-hour limit until the coin meters are replaced with multi-space parking pay stations, according to the ordinance.
City Council members voiced their concerns mainly over the cost of downtown parking. Several council members were concerned that some spaces would cost $1 while others would cost 25 cents.
“I just don’t like the idea of having some a dollar and some 25 cents,” said Ward 5 Councilwoman Lynda Tremaine. “It just looks like it’s a hit and miss. I agree with [Beth Witten], I think we would be better off putting it off.”
Ward 3 Councilwoman Bath Witten suggested raising the rate to $1 an hour once all coin meters are replaced with kiosks. She also suggested once the new public parking deck is built downtown, those spaces start at $1 as soon as they are open to the public.
Enforcement Hour Expansion
Members agreed with adding one additional hour on weekdays, making enforcement hours from 8 a.m.- 6 p.m. instead of 8 a.m.- 5 p.m., and not adding Saturdays as an enforcement day.
“I understand the pushback on the Saturday and the extended hours during the week and I’m glad were considering changing those,” said Ward 7 Councilman Gene Dulaney. “If we just continue the status quo then we just continue a problem downtown.”
The council agreed with raising each of the three levels of parking violations $10. The first violation fine will be $20, the second $30 and the third and final violation fine will be $50.
A vehicle can receive up to three fines each day, one of each level, for each parking space. One violation is issued for every two hours a vehicle is parked in a space past the time limit. The longer a vehicle is parked in a space illegally, the larger the fines get.
For example, with the new fining, enforcement hours and time limits, if a vehicle parks in a space at 8 a.m.., the first violation is issued at 10 a.m. if the vehicle remains. If the vehicle remains at noon, the second violation is issued at $30.
If another two hours pass and the same vehicle is parked in the same space, the third and final violation for the day is issued.
Vehicles that receive three violations in a day that are then moved to another space are eligible to receive additional fines. Once a vehicle is moved from one space to another the violations process restarts.
The general consensus from the council members was they would like to hear more from citizens before they vote on the ordinance. The council requested they hold a public hearing before the vote on the ordinance Aug. 7.
One of the main goals behind the changes to downtown parking was to eliminate Auburn students parking downtown for class.
“For us to facilitate the availability of parking for the people that want to go downtown and go to the shops downtown we have to get rid of the four-hour parking,” Buston said. “We have evidence that students are using it to go to class. They park there for four hours and it costs them 25 cents an hour and they go to class.”
Buston and council members hope the changes would limit the number of students that park downtown for class which, in turn, would open up spaces for residents and visitors to park and enjoy downtown.
The rate increase is because of how low the parking rate is in downtown Auburn compared to other downtown areas of other college towns. Buston informed the council that Auburn has one of lowest parking rate among American cities.
“It was a recommendation from the Downtown Merchants that we try this and see what happens and if it doesn’t work they want to be able to bring it back and say, ‘let's change this,’” Buston said.
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