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Increased parking Enforcement in Auburn

By: Melody Stone, Journal staff writer
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The city of Auburn is starting up full-time parking enforcement with the aid of volunteers. Staff presented the report at Monday’s City Council meeting outlining tactics for dealing with limited parking in the Old Town and Downtown business districts. The report came as a result of a parking study done in 2007, which assessed the needs of parking in the two business districts. The parking study concluded the city doesn’t need more parking, just better parking enforcement. The staff report included a timeline for implementing the parking study’s recommendations. Suggestions included pursuing a parking lot on Brewery Lane, looking into public-private parking lot partnerships and encouraging the use of public transit and alternate transportation. Staff also suggested communicating with local businesses about moving the parking limits from three hours to two hours. The city’s prior parking enforcement officer was also a dispatch officer. However with budget cuts, the position changed to full-time dispatch, and the city cut parking enforcement. Valerie Harris, Auburn police chief, currently has a few volunteer parking enforcement recruits in training and is looking for more. “We’re looking for a few good folks,” Harris said Tuesday afternoon. “It’s going to be a duty that requires a volunteer that has very good verbal skills, can operate the scooter, can understand basic vehicle code sections and will be able to deal well with the public.” City Manager Robert Richardson said it’s been a long time since there’s been consistent parking enforcement. “We need to increase enforcement of all posted parking regulations,” Richardson said. “Next month we will begin full-time parking enforcement, for the first time in recent history.” Councilman Bill Kirby said he wants people to know about the increased enforcement. “There will be tickets, there will be fines and we will be towing people,” Kirby said. “We’re developing a full-time volunteer parking enforcement cadre.” Harris said moving forward with any of the other parking suggestions will depend on how successful the enforcement effort is. “Any changes would be predicated on the results of enforcement,” Harris said. Brewery Lane Debate In other news council heard public comments both supporting and opposing a parking lot on Brewery Lane. At the end of comments, council chose to direct staff to continue plans for a 15-space parking lot on Brewery Lane with the option for a small picnic area, estimated at a cost of $165,812. Kirby said instructing staff to move forward doesn’t mean the project is set in stone. He said there are many phases along the way and the council will hear more public comment. “It’s not locked in stone, but we are going to move forward,” Kirby said. “There’s plenty of time for public input. We’re asking staff to further develop that option so we can continue looking at is as something we might want to implement, versus leaving it as essentially a dump.” Former Councilwoman Debbie Yue spoke against the development of Brewery Lane. The project would prevent Yue from getting a trailer into her property, which backs up to the proposed lot site. “Brewery Lane is a big part of the Yue family,” she said. “There’s a lot of available parking, it’s just not used.” Tom Romner, a resident of Old Town, also voiced his concerns at the meeting. “Will the owners and employees actually use it?” he asked. He called the project an “expensive intrusion on Brewery Lane.” He also asked with such limited funding if the city goes through with the parking lot, “what are we giving up?” Ty Rowe, the vice president of the Old Town Business Association and owner of Bootleggers Old Town Tavern and Grill said the association’s original request for a lot was not so grand or invasive, just a small gravel lot with a few spots for employee parking. “We’re not asking for 35 spots and a (retaining) wall,” Rowe said. The City Council previously directed staff to work up three different parking design options for 15, 25 or 35 spots on the plot of land. Councilman Mike Holmes said the cost escalates substantially as the lot sizes increases. “Personally I think the maximum that such a lot and community would support is fifteen spaces,” Holmes said. Holmes said there was no talk of doing a gravel lot because the city staff had to adhere to the city’s building standards required of commercial builders. These requirements include handicap parking, sidewalks, curbs and gutters.