Parking Authority wants equal limits

COVINGTON - The Downtown Parking Authority is asking that the two-hour time limit for parking on the square be enforced for both the inner and outer rings, in hopes of giving customers plenty of parking and keeping traffic flowing freely.

A two-hour time limit for parking has been in place on the square for some time, but apparently an ordinance was never drawn up, according to Denise Spires, a member of the Parking Authority and owner of the downtown business Spires Interiors and Gifts.

Enforcement of the time limit has not been applied to the inner ring of the square, Spires said, which has resulted in merchants parking vehicles there all day and limiting the number of customer spots.

"If you want the retail and professional (businesses) to be able to thrive downtown, you have to have a flow. What happens is, when the inner circle gets locked down with the all-day parking being tied up, it takes away almost half of the available parking for the downtown area," she said.

Though the Parking Authority voted that the two-hour time limit should be applied to both rings, as well as spaces one block off the Square, an ordinance brought before the City Council on Monday night excluded the inner ring, and allowed parking there for up to 12 hours.

Both Spires and Lee Mayfield, owner of Mayfield Hardware and president of the Parking Authority, said the exclusion should be struck so the spaces would not be monopolized by merchants.

They said their employees park in public lots behind the buildings or on side streets so as not to take up customer spaces.

"It irritates me to look out and see store owners' vehicles parked outside my store and see customers having to walk three blocks," Spires said.

She added that parking should be enforced equally for everyone.

"The last thing we want to do is give the good ole boy network an exclusion on the inner circle and then slap the customers on the hand," she said.

Mayor Kim Carter, who also serves on the authority, said employees need adequate parking as well.

"This is kind of a no-win situation," she said, adding that another downtown parking deck will likely eventually be needed.

Spires is recommending that the parking time limit be confined to normal business hours, though that is not addressed in the ordinance.

The council approved the first reading of the ordinance Monday night, with the second reading scheduled for the Jan. 5 meeting.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.