By STEVE SOUTHWELL
The Lewisville City Council heard from Chief of Police Russ Kerbow last Monday night in workshop session, regarding parking issues in Old Town.
Kerbow examined the parking issues in light of concerns brought forward by some of the business owners and tenants along Main Street, according to City Manager Donna Barron. Barron learned from Kerbow that state law does not cover some of the issues the city would like to fix, and that a city ordinance would be necessary for certain enforcement to take place.
“In my time in law enforcement, almost 38 years, there are two things people get the most upset about,” said Kerbow. “Parking tickets are one of them.”
Kerbow said there was a perception of inadequate parking in Old Town.
The city is considering establishing a loading zone for the north alley of Main Street. Most of the spaces there are public parking spaces, although many people think they belong to the shops. Kerbow said business owners sometimes get territorial about them. Barron clarified that five of the parallel parking spots on the north side are private.
The loading zone, if implemented, would be the center of the pavement behind the parking spots. It would be restricted for loading or unloading only, for a maximum of 20 minutes. It would prevent people from obstructing the alley or blocking in cars by parking there long-term.
“We could restrict it to certain days, or hours of the day,” said Kerbow.
“The could actually use that alley as a loading zone today; it’s not marked as a fire lane,” said Barron. “The problem is there’s no limit set for it. So if a vehicle decides to sit and stay for 40 minutes, they can block the alley,” she added.
Barron explained that if the loading zone time limit is posted, and a vehicle is parked longer, then police would deal with the situation on a complaint basis. Kerbow asked the council to consider an ordinance designating the loading zone.
Kerbow went on to describe the parking situation in Old Town, and his observations that it was not overly full on a day when he visited.
Kerbow showed a photo of a spot at the corner of Charles and Main that nobody ever parks in.
Barron mentioned the coming restaurants, including the Chasin’ Tail barbecue restaurant, which opened Wednesday, the Feed Mill opening next year, and the three restaurants opening on Church Street. “I think that’s going to have pretty dramatic effects on Old Town parking. The three restaurants on Church Street will only have 88 parking spaces added.
The Old Town parking plan shows there are 767 parking spaces in Old Town that are considered public parking. That figure includes street parking, and 56 future planned spaces to be added by the Main and Mill project.
Kerbow said you can get anywhere in Old Town on foot within 10 minutes.
City hall parking lots are considered public parking. The city asks its employees to park further away to keep the city hall parking open for visitors who want to visit Main Street. Even when all of the employees are working at city hall, they use only an estimated 167 spaces.
Back-in spaces will soon be tested on Church Street and Main Street adjacent to the MCL Grand Theater. Back-in spaces are like angle parking, but drivers pull forward of the spot, then back in. It gives drivers more visibility when exiting the parking space into traffic, and is generally considered a safer option.
Kerbow had taken a look at other local cities such as Denton, Grapevine, and McKinney to see how they did things. He said that some cities like Grapevine have parking agreements with local businesses to allow public parking after business hours, in exchange for the city maintaining the parking lot.
Kerbow said they are considering designating two-hour parking zones from 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. Monday – Friday, and no overnight parking for some of the spaces in the area.
Kerbow talked about the pedestrian crossing on Main Street across from Ferguson Plaza. That crosswalk has signs and flashing lights activated by pedestrians. Kerbow explained that once a pedestrian is in walkway, drivers must yield, but pedestrians cannot step off curb in front of traffic.
Councilman Neil Ferguson asked whether it might be helpful to have a sign at the crosswalk reminding drivers of their need to yield. City Engineer David Salmon said that was a possibility.
According to Kerbow’s presentation, there is no record of any accidents or incidents involving pedestrians at the crosswalk.
Kerbow said he will meet with the Main and Mill Association, the group representing Old Town businesses, at their June 14th meeting to get their input.
City Manager Donna Barron asked council for the consensus on what options they would like to see city staff bring to them for consideration.
The Council discussed enforcement, but Kerbow said he would not want to utilize police officers to monitor parking. He would only enforce it on a complaint basis.
Barron said that it is not unusual for there to be a civilian employee to enforce parking. Those rates of pay are much less than what a police officer gets paid.
The council seemed open to the idea of passing the new rules, but they were not generally in favor of funding any positions to deal with proactive enforcement, or any paid parking that would possibly fund that position. Kerbow told The Lewisville Texan Journal that the city does not budget staff positions based on fines collected.
But Kerbow seemed to hold open the idea that the problem might could be solved without an ordinance change. “If we can get the cooperation I’m speaking of, I don’t know that an ordinance would be needed.”