Delaware News

Downtown Delaware parking

New group will weigh options for improvement

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As city officials try to improve parking conditions in downtown Delaware, everything is on the table -- from new meters to cheaper permits and more-expensive tickets.

City leaders last week formed a new working group consisting of City Council members, local business owners and economic development officials to discuss the potential changes.

Delaware Police Chief Bruce Pijano-wski said a lot of frustration is caused by people who play "the two-hour game" with downtown parking spots. He said abuse of two-hour limits on downtown parking spaces is common, and it's difficult for officers to prove people are violating the law without sitting and watching the spaces for more than two hours.

"There's a short list of people who will park, and they'll see parking control come by and mark their tires (and) either move to a different space or rub the marks off," he said.

Pijanowski said he might talk to the Delaware County Prosecutor's Office about writing more tickets in those situations, but he worried those tickets could be successfully contested.

"I'm just not comfortable going and saying, 'We think (a suspect) did this,' because that's not proof beyond a reasonable doubt," he said.

Patrick Bailey, owner of Endangered Species: The Last Record Store on Earth at 12 N. Sandusky St., said repeat parking violators have hurt his business and neighboring establishments.

"The public perception is that there's no place to park, so they avoid downtown because parking is too difficult," he said. "There's obviously lots of places to park, but the abuse is so huge that the public perception is there's no place to park."

Bailey said he's seen everything from apartment tenants moving their cars slightly every two hours to used cars with "for sale" signs taking up spots for extended time periods.

Al Myers, co-owner of Choffey's Coffee and Confections, 17 W. Winter St., said city officials should consider installing new, state-of-the-art parking meters downtown. He said it would make parking enforcement easier and encourage a better flow of customers for businesses.

"Big cities are actually making revenue off of these meters because you can get out and swipe a card and pay," he said. "You can use a smartphone (to pay) if you have to stay longer at a meeting at an attorney's office."

Myers said he currently watches all too often as violators -- including lawyers, business owners and other professionals -- play the two-hour parking game because they know officers will not ticket them.

Myers also encouraged the city to hire more help to enforce parking laws. The city's police department currently has two part-time parking-enforcement officers.

Pijanowski said the city also could make parking fines "a little more painful" as a way to increase compliance with time limits. He said tickets currently cost $15 each, and he's spoken with the city's administration about hiking the charge to $25.

"I know of people who have parked downtown and received multiple tickets and they just pay them," he said. "Some of them think it's cheap parking."

Pijanowski said the city also could bolster its efforts to sell 10-hour parking passes to business owners to give to their employees, possibly selling them at a discounted rate. He said that would encourage employees to park slightly farther away in the long-term spaces, freeing up two-hour spots for customers.

Pijanowski added the city's administration already knows it needs to improve wayfinding in the downtown area to show residents and visitors where short-term and long-term parking is available.

Councilman Kent Shafer, who proposed the working group at the city's Parking and Safety Commission meeting Monday, Feb. 17, said many voices need to be heard in regard to downtown parking.

"There's not just one issue. There's several issues," he said. "It seems like we need a lot of input and maybe a long-term comprehensive plan."

The Parking and Safety Commission meets quarterly, but Shafer said the city would schedule special meetings of the new group in the near future. The group's first meeting has not yet been scheduled.

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