The Auburn City Council approved a fee structure for the Wright Street Parking Deck during Tuesday night’s meeting. The deck will cost one dollar per hour with a $15 maximum per day.
Parking will require payment 24/7, unlike other City parking, which is free after 6 p.m, on weekends, on City holidays and during breaks between University semesters. The city manager will be able to designate certain days for a flat rate of pay, such as during football season.
The deck will be entirely available to the public except for 15 spaces with signage for the Baptist Campus Ministry, which owns the spaces. The gate at the entrance to the parking deck will only allow enough cars to fill the deck, not opening for further cars.
During discussion of the deck’s fees, Ward 2 Council member Kelley Griswold proposed to remove the 24/7 enforcement of fees, stating he believed parking in the deck should be enforced the same as all other City parking. Ward 5 Council member Steven Dixon agreed.
City Manager Megan Crouch explained that cars would be able to park in the deck at night for free and leave them there, blocking spots from paying customers. Also, a car that parked at night would not have a ticket to leave the deck during the daytime, creating a bottleneck at the deck’s exit.
Griswold and Dixon withdrew the proposal, agreeing to evaluate the new parking plan at a later time. Crouch said that the City may look to lease out spaces or change the deck’s fee structure during the fall semester. Also, changes to on-street parking may be considered depending on the success of the parking deck.
The Council unanimously approved the deck’s fee structure, including an amendment by Dixon including Juneteenth as a recognized holiday for free parking in other City-owned spaces.
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The parking deck will be able to open after the Baptist Campus Ministry completely moves into their space in the deck and an elevator receives additional equipment.
During a discussion about purchasing a $34,604 lawn mower for the Soccer Complex, Griswold asked why the City chose it over a seemingly similar option $8,000 cheaper. Parks and Recreation Director Becky Richardson explained that the athletic facilities superintendent has experience with the mower from previous work in Montgomery and recommended it.
Crouch said that Parks and Recreation can absorb the cost into its current budget. Also, the mower will be bought and maintained at University Ace Hardware.
With the mower, Soccer Complex fields will be able to be mowed three times per week by one employee, allowing the grass to grow thicker and keeping the fields maintained, Richardson said.
The lawn mower purchase was approved with an 8-1 vote, with Griswold opposing.
Later in the meeting, the Council discussed additions and changes to wording in the zoning ordinance affecting short-term rentals. Dixon recused himself, as he filed a lawsuit against the City and more than a dozen of its employees over the issue on June 25. Dixon also abstained from voting when the ordinance was discussed in March, since he rented out his property on a short-term basis and would be directly affected by the decision.
The Council approved the amendments to the short-term rental rules in a 7-1 vote, with Ward 4 Council member Brett Smith voting in opposition.
During Citizens’ Open Forum at the end of the meeting, Ward 5 resident Linda Dean spoke to the Council against Dixon’s decision to file a lawsuit. She said that Dixon was told by his constituents through a ward meeting and through emails that they were opposed to short-term rentals in their neighborhoods.
Dean said that Dixon stated he would follow the law during the short-term rental discussion earlier in the year, but he has continued to rent his basement apartment since its passing.
In his own press release, Dixon stated that he has rented out his property on a short-term basis since 2018 and has received “substantial income” from doing so. He stated that he was denied a business license from the City due to the district his home is in, and he was told that reapplications would not change the decision.
Ward 5 residents Susan Bolt and Josh Poole spoke to the Council in support of Dixon’s decision. Bolt said that Dixon has the same right to sue as any other member of the community. Both residents asked the Council to reverse the short-term rental ordinance in its entirety.
The City is unable to comment on current litigation due to internal policy, but City Attorney Rick Davidson told The Plainsman that they plan to defend all allegations held against them, including validity of the zoning ordinance.
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