Rome crews will be adjusting the downtown parking signs this week after the City Commission extended the length of time and cut the enforcement hours for on-street parking.
Drivers will be able to park free for up to three hours a day in the district that centers on Broad Street, including a block on either side. Enforcement hours are from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“Three hours is plenty of time, two hours is not,” said Ira Levy, a downtown developer who polled 75 business and property owners this month.
Plans were to allow just two hours of on-street parking — at one time or spread out through the day — and to enforce the ordinance from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
But when the new rules and signage went up last month a public outcry convinced the commission to suspend the change.
The change is part of a long-term plan to switch to paid on-street parking on Broad and free parking in the downtown decks. It’s happening in steps, while the Downtown Development Authority collects data on parking patterns via license-plate reader technology.
Several alternate proposals were presented at the commission’s Monday caucus, from the DDA and merchants Levy polled. But the board ultimately decided to adopt the 3-hour standard, for now.
“We have to stop the delays and confusion,” Commissioner Sundai Stevenson said. “Get the data and, in three months, if it’s a problem we’ll come back and change it then.”
Becky Smyth, parking services manager for the DDA, said the first three weeks of data collection indicates 67% of the vehicles are parked for less than an hour a day. The last survey, in 2010, showed 70% were staying less than an hour.
Levy said the district has grown into a thriving hot-spot over the past decade.
His research, he said, found that Broad Street businesses now bring the city and county over $20 million a year in property taxes, sales taxes, licenses and fees.
Jay Shell, owner of Rome City Brewing Co., responded with frustration.
“So, if nothing’s changed (with the parking situation) in the last 10 years, why are we messing with it,” he asked.
Rome Mayor Bill Collins said the City Commission is following models from places like Savannah and Chattanooga, Tennessee, after their downtown growth appeared to be stifled by a parking crunch.
The revenue collected from their on-street parking kiosks is invested back into the city, he noted.