Our Opinion: Withhold city authorization of residential parking plan for downtown

We support the Jefferson City Council’s intention to withdraw a proposal on residential parking downtown.

Despite a public forum on the issue, too many questions remain.

Action on the bill would be premature; parking it on the informal calendar would be indecisive and unnecessary.

In addition, before City Council members decide how to structure a parking program for downtown residents, they first must decide whether the issue is a municipal matter or a landlord-tenant consideration.

Some background may be helpful.

A community initiative encourages creation of loft apartments above downtown storefronts to help revitalize the area.

Parking concerns revealed a permitting program now exists, and nine permits held by downtown residents allow them to park in any metered spot at no cost.

The program, however, was established by a former city administrator who had no authority to implement it.

Consequently, the City Council faced a decision whether to authorize, eliminate or adapt the program.

City officials wisely hosted a public forum, but the two hours of testimony failed to yield a consensus on a reasonable solution.

Admittedly, the city controls much of the parking in the downtown area, in both on-street spaces and municipal garages. Downtown property owners, however, control some private parking behind their buildings. Some portion of that typically is used by downtown merchants and their employees.

Questions that deserve to be asked include:

• Would a comprehensive assessment of private parking, use and availability downtown aid decision-making?

• Could existing — or future addition of — loading zones be used by residents temporarily to unload bulky items?

• If free permits are approved, what public interest — downtown revitalization? — justifies requiring all city residents to subsidize tenants of loft apartments?

Until our elected council representatives have addressed these and other questions, any decision to authorize a municipal program is premature.

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