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Business owners oppose 'no parking' zones in Mansfield

MANSFIELD — The Mansfield City Council tabled action Monday night on a proposal to create “no parking” zones along Ga. Highway 11, which is the main thoroughfare through the city limits.

A number of business owners attended the City Council meeting to voice concerns over the proposal, which was suggested by the Georgia Department of Transportation as part of an overall plan to reduce speed limits in the city.

According to city officials, the DOT will not allow the speed limit through town to be reduced to 25 mph. Officials had proposed installing crosswalks to slow traffic, which would mean that parking along the highway would have to be eliminated.

Wayne Blackwell, owner of Blackwell’s Grocery in downtown Mansfield, said there is already a shortage of parking in town. Ga. 11 runs beside his grocery store, which he’s owned for 29 years.

While he’s concerned about safety, Blackwell said city leaders need to keep the needs of business owners in mind in a town that was “set up for horse and buggy.”

“In talking to some people, I get the impression we’re trying to put a tourniquet on a scratch that’s not bleeding,” he said.

Sheila Massey, whose family has owned and operated Hays Tractor & Equipment since 1947, suggested that city officials come up with an alternative plan before voting to set up the “no parking” zones. Massey said she is working to come up with a new product line and new plans for the business, but cutting back on parking would hinder those efforts.

“It’s not going to let me grow if it takes customers away from me,” she said.

Terry Treadwell, whose family owns and operates Where There’s Smoke, a barbecue restaurant on Ga. 11, said his employees conducted an informal survey, asking customers where they parked. Fifteen percent indicated that they park somewhere other than the lots beside and behind the restaurant, he said.

“You figure you operate a restaurant on 8 to 10 percent profit,” he said. “You take half of that 15 percent at least, it doesn’t leave me in very good shape.”

Councilman Jeff Riley, in his first meeting as a member of the governing body, reassured the business owners that the city was looking for a way to address speeding without hurting businesses. He said that the council may “take a step back” and consider an overlay plan for the entire downtown area.

“Rest assured that we don’t want to do anything that’s going to take business away from this community.”