Boone Town Council Retracts 33 Percent Parking Increase for Merchants, Adopts 10 Percent Increase Instead

Published Friday, July 20, 2012 at 8:50 am

The Town of Boone lot above Queen Street. Photo by Jesse Wood

By Jesse Wood

July 20, 2012. After hearing multiple complaints from downtown merchants regarding parking increases in Town of Boone-owned lots, the Boone Town Council retracted its original 33 percent monthly increase and adopted a 10 percent increase instead at its regular meeting on Thursday.

Instead of parking space fees rising $7.50 per month, the increase will be $2.50 per month for a total of $25 per month per space. For merchants with multiple employees, the parking fees added up to hundreds of dollars per year. Haircut 101 owner John Mena was one of the most vocal merchants. He said the increase amounted to $800 over the course of  the year for six spots

Council Member Lynne Mason said that while the spaces should be competitive with the market rates, the council wants to remain sensitive to business owners, especially in the current economic climate.

McLaurin Parking, which recommended the increase, manages three lots for the Town of Boone – the angled metered spaces on Queen Street, the parking lot above Queen Street and a lot behind the Watauga County Public Library. Downtown merchants and its employees are given first priority for the lots, and any leftover are sold to the general public – mostly students. 

Steve McLaurin, McLaurin Parking’s liaison with the Town of Boone, said that Grace Lutheran Church rents spaces for $32 but added that’s only for Monday through Friday.

There was some discussion regarding a discounted rate for business owners and another higher rate for the public who parks in those spots. But, Town Attorney Sam Furgiuele added that the multiple prices could be complicated, but he suggested having different prices for particular lots. This is something the council will look into in the future.

The original 33 percent increase had already been included in the approved budget and was effective July 1, though anyone who has already paid the increase will receive a refund.

Council Member Jamie Leigh added that a ten percent increase would be “more reasonable” and shows “good will on our part.”

See previous July 12 story on the increases below:

Parking for Downtown Merchants Increases 33 Percent

By Jesse Wood

July 12, 2012. According to recent invoices sent to downtown merchants, parking for lots owned by the Town of Boone – and contracted out to McLaurin Parking Company, monthly parking space rates will increase 33 percent – from $22.50 to $30.

McLaurin Parking manages three lots – the angled metered spaces on Queen Street, the parking lot above Queen Street and a lot behind the Watauga County Public Library. Downtown merchants and its employees are given first priority for the lots, and any leftover are sold to the general public – mostly students.

Steve McLaurin, McLaurin Parking’s liaison with the Town of Boone, said the Town of Boone wants to maintain a competitive rate compared to other parking space leasers. He said that Grace Lutheran Church rents spaces for $32 but added that’s only for Monday through Friday.

“It’s just trying to keep up with the market rate. The town doesn’t want to be most expensive nor does it want to be way below market rate. The people in town charge a higher rate,” McLaurin said.

He added that the Town of Boone is “sensitive” to downtown merchants, but even with the increase it’s still “about a $1” per day to park.

Even though merchants received a letter notifying them of the future increase, McLaurin said the increase isn’t set in stone as the Town of Boone is addressing the issue at its next council meeting, which happens on third Tuesday and Thursday of each month.

But a Town of Boone invoice to Haircut 101, reads “Due to increase approved by Town Council effective 07/01/12.”

For merchants with numerous employees, this increase poses a factor on its’ bottom line – especially for small businesses, according to one downtown merchant.

John Mena, owner of Haircut 101, who uses the parking spaces behind the library, wrote a letter to the High Country Press blasting the increases, adding that he already pays into the Municipal Service District tax, which is used to promote economic development in downtown Boone.

“Really? $800 more per year, for a total of $3,120 for six parking spaces, is what I will now have to spend on parking for my employees,” Mena wrote.

“Small businesses have been struggling to make payroll and curb expenses, due to our ‘Leaders’ these past two decades, to keep their businesses afloat only to get more increases form our own Local Government,” Mena continued. “Staying in business in today’s economy, takes a lot of hard work, determination and being tenacious with the costs of doing business – any business. Government, on the other hand, just raises taxes, fines and parking fees.”

Speaking at High Country Press offices on Thursday, Mena suggested having a reduced rate for merchants.

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