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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/ANDY SHUPE Luke Bouxsein, a parking enforcement officer with the city of Fayetteville, changes a battery Friday, March 2, 2018, on a parking pay station off West Avenue in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- The city has taken the first steps in an effort to improve parking downtown.

Council members voted 8-0 on Tuesday to adopt the first phase of a recommended downtown parking master plan. The adopted measure includes 10 steps.

Other items

The council also passed the following measures:

• Amending the sidewalk ordinance to more clearly define property owner responsiblity in clearing debris such as tree limbs from the right of way.

• Banning smoking in city-owned parks and trails.

Source: Staff report

According to the plan, parking enforcement officers will use a customer-service approach. City officials also will negotiate with private owners to create more parking spaces. Event parking, currently cash only, will be reviewed. The city also will update its software and hardware capabilities in managing parking. Better outreach and clearer, uniform signs make up a significant portion of the plan. More study and discussion also will follow on larger issues, such as sidewalk connections, lighting and residential parking.

Two other phases of the overall plan will come before the council in later years, said Justin Clay, parking manager. The first phase covers the immediate future.

"This phased approach I think sets us on a clearly defined road map for the next 20 months or so," he said.

Jason Schreiber with consulting firm Nelson/Nygaard gave the council an introduction to the overall parking plan available on the city's website. The city hired the firm for $585,000 in 2016 to update its entire transportation plan, $95,000 of which was used to study parking.

Further action, such as changing the pricing structure based on demand, will be discussed in later phases. Council member John La Tour brought up the city's move a decade ago to implement paid parking. Mayor Lioneld Jordan said he heard the arguments about it then.

More than half of the 9,000 spaces downtown are privately owned, Schrieber said.

"If I can't have free, make it simple, will you?" La Tour said.

Council member Matthew Petty, whose ward covers downtown, described the report as a come-to-Jesus moment when it comes to managing parking. The city implemented paid parking all at once 10 years ago, and it makes sense there would be a few bumps in the road along the way, he said.

It should be clear how much parking costs when visitors come downtown, Petty said. Drivers should know they could go a block farther from the destination for cheaper parking or a few more blocks for free parking, he used as an example.

"We don't have that now," Petty said. "But if we did, I think it would be simple."

A stakeholder session held before the council meeting was sparsely attended. Two real estate professionals, a downtown resident, a business owner and representatives of the Chamber of Commerce and Walton Arts Center asked about items specific to their interests and larger points of the plan.

Clay said part of what the council adopted Tuesday entails getting more public input on deeper aspects of parking.

The council tabled for two weeks rezoning about four acres northeast Crossover Road and Township Street. Landowner Jerry Jones said he requested the rezoning in order to sell the property, which he said he has been trying to do for more than a decade.

The current zoning allows residential development by right. The requested rezoning would still allow houses but also some mix of low-intensity commercial development, such as offices or shops.

Justin Tennant, one of the council members for that part of town, asked the council to table the item so Jones and adjacent landowners could work something out. The property likely will never sell without another way in or out, Tennant said, and another access point could be built on the back of the property.

The council toured the property Monday. Tennant nearly got into a wreck when he tried to pull in.

Six residents spoke, many of whom brought up snarling traffic at the intersection, the danger posed to children and incompatibility with the largely residential surrounding land uses.

The council vote to table ended in a 4-4 tie. Jordan cast the deciding vote to table. Jones requested a vote up or down but said he'd be open to talking with other property owners.

In a separate issue, a controversial rezoning proposal to rezone about 20 acres northeast of Rolling Hills Drive and Old Missouri Road was sent back to the Planning Commission. It will be on the commission's Monday agenda. The soonest the item could make it back to the council is April 3.

Several neighbors in the area have spoken out against the rezoning, which would allow slightly smaller lots for single family homes than the current zoning.

NW News on 03/07/2018

Print Headline: City takes on parking plan

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