Parking solution: City to add signs, redesign public lot

A west-looking view of the public parking lot that lies between First Congregational and Trinity Lutheran churches on Tuesday morning this week. The planned makeover of the lot includes removing the asphalt curbs that run down the length and redoing the parking stall markings.

A west-looking view of the public parking lot that lies between First Congregational and Trinity Lutheran churches on Tuesday morning this week. The planned makeover of the lot includes removing the asphalt curbs that run down the length and redoing the parking stall markings.

Reconfiguring a city parking lot and installing public-parking signs is the city of Princeton’s solution to alleviating highly debated parking concerns on the city’s downtown streets.
About two months ago Princeton retailer Kelly Guptil and Chamber of Commerce Board President Scott Berry pleaded for the council to enact a two-hour parking regulation for a central section of the downtown. Guptil complained that she had witnessed too many instances of people parking for most of the day in front of Ossell’s, where she has a business and is the manager. Guptil and Berry said that when a potential customer comes to shop and can’t get a parking spot to a store, they are apt to just bypass the downtown.
Mayor Paul Whitomb and council members Thom Walker, Dick Dobson and Victoria Hallin took action last Thursday to try to get people to park in public parking lots rather than in on-street stalls. Councilmember Jules Zimmer was absent.
The City Council was cool to enacting a two-hour parking limit and passed a motion about a month ago to wait until the council would be working on the 2014 budget to consider ideas to address downtown parking.
But since that time, City Administrator Mark Karnowski and Public Works Director Bob Gerold drafted a plan for redesigning a big public parking lot in the central business district and  putting up signs to help steer motorists toward those lots.
Their suggestion and last Thursday’s council action also came after a May 14 meeting in the library community room, in which about 30 retail and service business people expressed thoughts on the parking subject.
Princeton Community Developing Director  Carie Fuhrman reported that a hand count at the start of the two-hour May 14 discussion showed more attendees against a two-hour parking regulation than for it.
“There was a definite feeling that the city could do a better job of identifying and advertising the off-street public parking spaces available,” she also noted.
Because of that, Fuhrman recommended that the council place public-parking signs at the city’s four public lots – the two mall lots, as well as the lot located between the alley behind Villa Manor Apartments, and Sixth Avenue South, and the parking lot that lies between First Congregational and Trinity Lutheran churches.
At its May 23 meeting, the council passed a motion to do just that and also to change the layout of the parking lot between the churches. The lot will also be sealcoated this spring, Gerold said. Karnowski has brought up in a memo the idea recently raised of business persons, business property owners and their employees in the downtown signing a pledge to refrain from parking in the on-street parking stalls within the downtown core.
The city’s downtown core has 1,090 parking spots, with 346 of those spaces being on-street parking.
Karnowski said that some people at the May 14 parking discussion “felt a good neighbor pledge might be a good start” in addressing the issues raised about parking.
One of the statements repeatedly heard at that meeting was how some did not realize certain parking lots were public, Fuhrman said.
Hallin said she was among those who didn’t know about all the public parking lots.
Police Chief Brian Payne investigated the downtown parking situation and found that there have been a number of business owners or employees parking for long periods of time in on-street parking stalls in front of businesses.
“It is nice to see businesses signing an agreement. They are part of the problem, so it is nice to see them follow through,” Dobson said.

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