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The main topic of discussion at last week’s Fayette city council meeting once again was downtown parking. Residents and members of the business community are up in arms regarding the idea of …
The main topic of discussion at last week’s Fayette city council meeting once again was downtown parking. Residents and members of the business community are up in arms regarding the idea of parallel parking in some areas. Council members want to hold a public meeting to discuss what parking changes, if any, should be made downtown.
A new parking plan was recently developed by John Huss, and engineer for OWN, Inc., a Columbia firm. The plan was funded by the Historic Downtown Fayette Commercial Community Improvement District (CID), with the idea of improving parking and increasing the number of parking spaces downtown.
As has been previously reported by this newspaper, the latest edition of the plan includes parallel parking on blocks of Main St. immediately adjacent to the north and south of the square, and in front of the Eagle Plaza, the new Central Methodist University building under construction on Church St.
One downtown business owner spoke up during the council’s latest regular meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 23. Mickie Foland owns The Peacock Beauty Shop on North Main St. and vehemently objects to parallel parking in front of her business.
“I just want to say it’s not going to work,” Foland told the council.
The Peacock, which has been a staple of downtown business for 96 years, often caters to elderly people who will likely find it difficult to parallel park, Foland contends.
(Full Disclosure: Mrs. Foland rents a storefront from the owner of the Advertiser who is the writer of the article.)
The new parking plan also does not include a handicap stall on North Main St.. When Foland relocated The Peacock there, the city obliged her request to paint a handicap space in front of her business.
“I have handicapped customers who have to get wheelchairs out of the back of their vans,” Foland said. “This is something I’m very passionate about, because some of my clients can’t even get in from parking to the door, much less walk a half a block or a block.
“Nobody is thrilled about parallel parking,” she said.
The plan does more than just adjust parking spaces. It changes the traffic pattern around the square to one-way, which will allow parking lines to be painted wider (from nine to 10 feet) and will increase the parking angles from 45 to 60 degrees. Those changes will allow for more parking spaces downtown and will better accommodate larger vehicles such as farm trucks.
“The whole discussion is for more parking,” said Fayette Director of Public Works Danny Dougherty. “I don’t agree with any of the parallel parking. But if we change the spaces back to the way they were, it gives us 100 more spaces. In order to do that, it has to be one-way.”
In September 2019, the city changed the angles of downtown parking spaces to allow traffic to pass through the narrow streets more easily. That change increased the width driving lanes by around 10 feet but reduced the number of parking spaces around the square by 41%, from 217 to 127, by this newspaper’s count. The old lines were also painted over in black. Yellow lines marked the new spaces, which some still find confusing.
In the plan’s latest draft, traffic will commence counterclockwise around the square. However, traffic would be allowed to travel in both directions on Main St. on the blocks adjacent to the square, from Davis to Elm streets, and from Morrison St. all the way south to MO 240 (Church St.). But to allow for two-way traffic, Huss changed the parking from angled to parallel on those blocks of Main Street immediately adjacent to the square.
What seems to contribute to the uproar is widespread confusion over the fact that the city council ultimately has the power to make all, some, or none of the changes in the plan. The plan is a series of ideas meant to improve coveted parking around the square. The council could decide to adopt the one-way traffic around the square, and also make traffic on Main S.t one direction. That would allow for slanted spaces, not parallel, to be painted on both sides of the street.
Even some council members appear to think the CID board will enact parking changes. Mike Dimond, Assistant to the Mayor, who was instrumental in the establishment of the commercial district, explained that the CID board has no power to change anything downtown. It simply funded a study, at the behest of Fayette Main Street, Inc., and downtown businesses, he said, with the ambition to help the city make informed decisions about downtown parking.
“They’re really not even making a recommendation,” Dimond explained. “The CID is merely a funding mechanism to help support city projects.”
Changes, if any, are not likely to occur until after a proposed asphalt overlay of downtown happens in late spring. The overlay will coincide with the Missouri Department of Transportation’s plan to lay new asphalt along MO 240.
It is widely accepted that zero parallel parking stalls will be installed on North Main St., which has significant elevation changes. Where the street meets the sidewalk on the east side, in front of The Peacock Beauty Salon, the elevation is lower by eight to 10 inches, Huss said. That slope would not allow for parallel parking.
However, there is likely to be parallel parking along one block of Church Street in front of Eagle Plaza. A new sidewalk has been constructed but may be too wide to accommodate slanted parking. Northwest Ward Alderwoman Peggy O’Connell reported to the council that Central Methodist University is nonplussed about the situation and if it had known, would have poured a narrower sidewalk in front of the new building to prevent parallel parking. As it stands now, cars and trucks parked in the slanted spots meet the edge of the roadway, which is also a state highway.
Because of all the confusion and rampant speculation regarding downtown parking, the council decided to hold a public forum to weigh all the options before making any decisions.
Northwest Ward Alderwoman Michelle Ishmael said there is a lack of communication all the way around. “We need to have some kind of public meeting. Everyone needs a moment of time to speak up. We need to be gracious and hear everybody. If not, we’re going to have a mutiny on our hands.”
The council will likely decide on a time a place to hold the forum at its next meeting. The Board of Aldermen meets regularly at 6 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month in City Hall. Meetings are open, agendas are published in advance, and the public is invited.
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