An Athens-Clarke County Commission committee has been asked to examine ways to streamline a residential parking permit program focused on ensuring that on-street parking in neighborhoods where off-street parking is at a premium is available for people who actually live in the neighborhood.
As reported in the Athens Banner-Herald, earlier last week Mayor Nancy Denson assigned the parking issue to the commission’s Government Operations Committee due to a request from Commissioner Melissa Link, whose intown district is most susceptible to the pressures of non-residents parking on residential streets.
At Tuesday’s commission meeting, Link mentioned that the opening of the University of Georgia’s Health Sciences Campus in the Normaltown neighborhood has created parking pressures for residential streets as students and others using the campus have opted to use on-street parking instead of paying to park on the campus itself.
Similarly, patrons of businesses along nearby Prince Avenue, as well as patients and staff of various medical offices near Piedmont Athens Regional hospital, often park on neighborhood streets due to scarce parking elsewhere or to avoid parking charges.
The county’s residential parking permit program was initiated a few years ago aimed at neighborhoods in the Five Points area, where University of Georgia students would park their cars and then walk to campus to avoid on-campus parking fees. Eventually, the program expanded to other intown neighborhoods.
Currently, including a neighborhood in the residential parking permit program can be a tough process.
As an initial step, 30 percent of the property owners along a street who want to be considered for the program must express interest in the program to the county government. Then the traffic engineering division of the county’s Transportation & Public Works Department notifies the commissioner, or commissioners, who represent the neighborhood of the residents’ interest in the program.
At that point, a petition must be circulated to property owners in the neighborhood, and 65 percent of those owners must approve participation in the parking permit program. That 65 percent threshold must be met on each block within the proposed boundaries of a new residential parking permit program.
If 65 percent of property owners express support for participating in the residential parking permit program within a 30-day deadline, the Transportation & Public Works Department will prepare documentation for the mayor and commission to consider.
The final decision on whether or not to place a neighborhood in the residential parking program lies with the mayor and commission.
Once a neighborhood is approved for the program, property owners who pay a $10 fee are entitled to two “hang tags” for their vehicles to identify them as belonging to residents of the street. Temporary permits, for visitors to residents of the neighborhood, are available for $5.
The program restricts on-street parking to residents only between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and neighborhoods participating in the program are identified by signs provided by the county.
Denson suggested Friday that a good solution might be a process that does not involve her or the commission at all.
“We might come up with some methodology for some sort of administrative procedure” rather than leaving the program at least partly in the political arena, Denson said.
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