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Town of Boone, DBDA To Look Into Paid Parking Throughout Entire Downtown, Would Be First Since 1983

The parking time-limit signs on Depot Street. Photo by Jesse Wood

Correction: Boone Mall did not open in mid ’70s. In fact, it opened in 1983. High Country Press apologizes for this error. 

By Jesse Wood

Aug. 31, 2012. At the annual meeting for the Downtown Boone Development Association on Thursday, DBDA President Dempsey Wilcox suggested that the days of free parking in downtown Boone should be over and added that a parking subcommittee of the DBDA will look into this matter in the future.

If this were to happen, it would be like stepping back in time. Boone had metered parking until the Boone Shopping Mall opened in 1983. 

Once Belk’s and a few other shops left downtown and moved into the mall, the meters were removed “in attempts to compete with the mall,” Wilcox said.

“It was a good draw and maybe that was one of the factors that helped reinvigorate downtown. But the vigoration is done,” Wilcox said, adding that the DBDA and Town of Boone should “probably” generate revenue from the parking.

Aside from the potential revenue, Wilcox cited people’s confusion with the signs, which Wilcox called visually unappealing, and the ordeal of dealing with people wanting their tickets nixed.

He mentioned that hourly parking currently enforced creates a “parking annex” for ASU students traversing to and from 50-minute classes.

Currently metered parking is located on Queen Street. Wilcox said the current parking structure is “backwards” with free parking extremely close to the shops and metered parking farther away.

He said this is just a proposal and “not a done deal.”

An employee of McLaurin Parking, which has a contract with the Town of Boone to manage parking, working in the downtown Boone office, said that she receives 10 or so complaints from people a week who want their tickets absconded. She added that this number would be much higher if it wasn’t for the downtown business validation stickers.

She said many of complaints regard people who were confused about the intermittent signs. If a sign is not directly in front of their car, she said, some of those vehicle owners think those signs don’t pertain to that particular space.

Steve McLaurin, a liason from McLaurin Parking with the Town Boone, said he had heard mentions of moving to all-paid parking but hasn’t been involved in any detailed discussions of this matter yet. Based in Raleigh, he said he is coming to Boone in two weeks to discuss parking issues with town staff.

As for other municipalities with paid parking, he mentioned that Raleigh, for instance, has pay stations every four spaces, which conveniently take cash or credit card, as opposed to the traditional meters which only take correct change, such as those on Queen Street.

No pay rates have been discussed so far. The pay rates on the Queen Street meters are six minutes for 5 cents; 12 minutes for 10 cents; 30 minutes for 25 cents; and two hours for $1. There is also a parking lot next to Town Hall that is time based.

Bob and Karen Snead, owners of Dancing Moon, said that perhaps a variety of parking is needed, such as free 30 minute parking for those who just want to run into a shop real quick and pick up a needed item.

Karen added that for tourists, the metered parking will work smoother, stating that one-hour parking limit “makes it harder for shopping. She also said that “plenty” of customers avoid the store all together after making three loops trying to find a parking space.

Both agreed that the issue of accessible parking is a concern.

Referring to the apartment building that was recently approved by the Boone Area Planning Commission and Boone Town Council and will be located next to the Hob Nob Farm Café with little if any parking, Bob added, “If they are really concerned about parking, instead of building a four-story building, put up a parking deck.”

Bob Meier, who owns Doe Ridge Pottery and is a member of the DBDA, said that a test run of metered parking on King Street will occur sometime in the future from the First Baptist Church to Hob Nob Farm Café

He also has customers that shop in two or three stores and eat lunch and come back to their cars with tickets on their windshield. Even though businesses can validate parking, if a customer receives two tickets, McLaurin Parking will only validate one ticket.

Meier has customers that are apprehensive to drive to downtown and deal with trying to find a parking space. He said, many times, they just end of “driving on through.”

For one, he thinks paid parking would limit students who zip to and from 50-minute classes and the free parking in downtown Boone, but he is also concerned that students who don’t mind paying for metered parking will fill all of those spots that are ideally reserved for shoppers.

Another pro of paid parking, Meier said, is that perhaps turnover of folks parking would be quicker.

“They’ll come and go as soon as their business is finished,” Meier said.

He said the time-limit signs are confusing and clutter the streetscape, and paid parking would generate some revenue for streetscape projects in the downtown district.

“I just want some standard practice everyone can understand without signs every 500 feet,” Meier said, adding that “truth be told,” a parking deck might solve many of the problems.

On Friday afternoon while the Queen Street metered lots were nearly full, an older couple received a parking ticket on Depot Street after visiting the Mast General Store. The couple swore they had only been parked for 30 minutes.

When told that there are talks of moving to an all-paid format, the gentleman, who was in a bad mood after the ticket, scowled and said, “I don’t think that’s any better.”