Our Opinion: Lofty ideas on downtown parking stalled

The Jefferson City Council has a parking problem.

City officials largely support a community effort to attract more residents to loft apartments in the downtown area.

The dilemma is accommodating tenants with parking located in reasonable proximity to their apartments. The dilemma arises because anyone returning home with a trunk load of groceries will not want to walk two or more city blocks to their residence.

What is the existing practice for people living in downtown loft apartments?

Those residents now receive city permits allowing them to park in any metered spot at no cost. A dozen permits have been issued.

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

As interest increases in loft apartments, the issue has become an item on the City Council’s agenda.

Council members, however, primarily are hearing opposition to free parking permits. “I have yet to have a call saying ‘we’re in favor of this,’’’ said 3rd Ward Councilman Bryan Pope, who identified the callers as building owners, retailers and constituents.

Viable, alternative solutions have not been forthcoming either, prompting council members to suggest — but not schedule — a public forum on the issue.

We favor the public forum concept, if only as a way to lure other options and ideas.

Some questions that deserve to be considered include:

• Do building owners who would rent loft apartments have available parking in the rear that is accessible from the alleys? Are those spaces already given or leased to main-floor retailers’ employees?

• Is parking in city lots and garages available and would it be considered reasonable proximity to a loft apartment?

• Are loading zones available where tenants could activate vehicle hazard lights while unloading groceries or bulky items before moving the vehicle to more-distant, designated parking?

• Have other cities faced a similar situation? What was their solution?

We believe a public forum is a wise venue for discussion and distillation of sensible ideas. In the meantime, we invite our readers to share their thoughts on this issue.

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