Downtown rules to stay for parking

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

COVINGTON -- An effort to suspend enforcement of parking rules downtown failed at the City Council meeting Monday night.

Councilman Chris Smith said he has heard multiple complaints from residents and business owners regarding the new enforcement plan. Parking on the Square has been limited to two hours for years, but the Parking Authority recently rolled out an initiative to enforce that rule. Called Park Smart, the initiative limits parking on the outside ring and one block off the Square to two hours and imposes a 12-hour limit on the inner ring of the Square to prevent overnight parking.

Fines for violators have increased from $3 per offense, with first-time offenders receiving a warning, second- and third-time offenders fined $10 and each subsequent offense carrying a $50 fine. The new regulations do not apply to handicap spaces.

The council approved the changes in 2009, prior to Smith taking office. Mayor Kim Carter, chair of the Parking Authority, told the council earlier this month that enforcement is just now beginning.

"Multiple people have told me two hours is not enough time," Smith said before making a motion to suspend enforcement. Smith said the problem is with downtown shop employees parking on the outer ring in front of stores for hours, taking up spaces that should belong to customers. That issue should be addressed by employers, he said.

"You get a couple of people getting tickets on the Square and you're going to hear an uproar," he said.

The council was deadlocked 3-3, with Smith, Keith Dalton and Mike Whatley in favor of suspending enforcement and Janet Goodman, Hawnethia Williams and Ocie Franklin opposed. The mayor broke the tie to deny the motion, meaning enforcement of the new regulations will continue.

Carter said the goal of the initiative is to get people to change behavior and violators will receive fliers explaining the new rules and a warning on their first offense. The fliers are also available to the public at downtown businesses.