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Thursday, July 31, 2014

East Campus parking proposals discussed at forum

Many people were opposed to installing parking meters in East Campus.

Individuals and parties who have a stake in the future of parking in East Campus voiced their concerns during an open forum at City Hall Wednesday night.

City Traffic Engineer Richard Stone said the city has identified 550 street parking spaces in East Campus, but many residents are still struggling with lack of space. The primary cause for this issue, Stone said, is the large number of nonresidents who are parking in the neighborhood when commuting to MU or nearby businesses.

Stone said while voluntary compliance to current city ordinances regarding parking in residential neighborhoods would be ideal, it is not realistic. As a result, enforcement of parking ordinances in East Campus is being handled by the Columbia Police Department.

Stone said he was instructed by City Manager Mike Matthes to explore more efficient alternatives of enforcing the parking policies, because of the police’s lack of manpower.

“CPD has a lot on their plate and parking is usually pretty low on their priority list,” Stone said. “However, the city manager thought (the Public Works Department) could potentially help out in that area.

Stone presented a potential program in which the department would take over parking enforcement in East Campus. The program is estimated to cost $29,350 annually.

In order to offset the cost of the program, Stone also presented a number of proposals involving either or both residential parking by permit only and parking meters.

One proposal would allot residents two permits per building at the price of $20 per permit annually, and potentially install meters in areas with high-density parking.

A similar proposal would allow residents to purchase an unlimited number of permits for $10 per permit annually, but the buyer would need to prove residency in East Campus.

Another proposal would allow two permits per unit at no costs for residents, with meters in the high-density streets.

The final option, Stone said, is to implement none of the proposals, and attempt to improve the current enforcement program instead.

While permit policies were received positively, many residents opposed metered parking.

Janet Hammen, the East Campus Neighborhood Association president, suggested that the $20 permits could be a viable alternative to meters.

“We do not want meters … But (the proposal) would definitely help offset the cost, though it would ultimately depend on how many permits are issued,” Hammen said.

Despite the Missouri Students Association’s statement released Monday, which condemned any new parking policy, MSA president Mason Schara said he is willing to consider permits as a viable solution, if permits are offered to residents at no additional cost.

“I think we are going to re-evaluate (the statement) a little bit,” Schara said. “We are going to oppose anything that raises the cost of living (for residents). If there is a proposal that makes permits free to all residents, I don’t see (MSA) having much of an issue.”

Schara added that he still strongly opposes any parking meter policy.

“(Parking meters) would be taking parking away from residents who pay for that,” Schara said. “If they are going to have to pay for permits, why should they for permits and meters at the same time? It’s absurd.”

City officials will make no immediate decision on the parking solution.

Stone said he and the Public Works Department will combine feedback from the public and recommendations from city staff to generate a report for City Council.

Prior to submitting the report to the council, Stone said he will share the report with the public. Stone anticipates the report to be completed sometime between May and June.

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