City officials attended the Sept. 5 Burns Square Neighborhood Association meeting for a discussion about parking. Listening to Cherylyn Van Kirk describe the meeting, though, it seems to have been closer to a standoff.
“They came with an agenda that they were trying to put forth,” Van Kirk said. “I think they knew what we were going to be putting forth.”
Following the expiration of the city’s lease of a parking lot at Orange Avenue and Laurel Street, Van Kirk has been leading the charge of Burns Square stakeholders demanding a solution from the city, preferably the renewal of that lease.
City Manager Tom Barwin and Parking Division Manager Mark Lyons went to last Thursday’s meeting to hear from people in Burns Square and to try to develop a plan going forward. Van Kirk said the meeting underscored one of her problems with the city — that a plan doesn’t already exist.
“I think what everyone is up in arms about is that they didn’t tell us this was coming, didn’t think about getting alternatives set up before season,” Van Kirk said.
The lot had been open for the past several weeks even after the city’s license agreement expired July 25, but, Tuesday, the owners of the lot, Michael Saunders and Co., closed it to the public. Michael Saunders spokesman Tom Heatherman said the lot had been roped off due to potential liability issues.
Lyons said the city plans on working as quickly as possible to come up with an adequate answer. In addition to continuing negotiations with Michael Saunders, the city is looking into adding diagonal and parallel parking on side streets. Many people at last Thursday’s meeting were receptive to that idea, Lyons said.
City engineers are examining the streets in Burns Square to see what the impact of additional parking spaces might be. Lyons said that process should take a week or two, and if no major adjustments are required to accommodate the spaces, they could be installed soon.
“The solutions we’re talking about right now are rather immediate,” Lyons said. “It should be able to get accomplished before the peak of season, so it’s really just a matter of evaluating whether we can do it.”
Van Kirk said the city should at least be considering a month-by-month lease of the lot; Lyons said they were looking into the possibility of that option.
Van Kirk said Burns Square would be well represented at Monday’s City Commission meeting when the topic comes up for discussion. Eventually, she believes, the city will realize it needs to reverse its decision and renew the lease of the lot due to the response from those in Burns Square.
“I think officials are starting to see the light,” Van Kirk said. “There’s really no way else to do it, because people are going to be screaming.”