By Nathan Ham
When the Boone Town Council decided it was time for the town to enforce its own parking statutes, it got the ball rolling on a complete makeover of how parking will be enforced in downtown.
Last Thursday, the town invited local citizens and business owners to the Jones House on King Street to meet part of the new parking staff and bring their thoughts and concerns to the town’s attention.
Lane Moody, who is the Town of Boone Downtown Development Coordinator, said that the council’s decision to have town employees enforce parking rules not only gives the town more control over parking but also more flexibility with staffing.
“We’re excited about that. Parking is a big deal. One of the things we have talked about is that we want our new parking staff to be focused on being a guide for visitors,” Moody said. “If we’ve got people coming through downtown, making sure they are familiar with the different restaurants and shops that are downtown and being able to point people in the right direction is important.”
Moody added that she envisions parking enforcement staff to also be a good resource for both visitors and local residents to help them find available parking.
Allowing for residents and business owners to provide their feedback on the town’s parking situation has led the town to not only make the decision to have local faces enforcing parking rules but to also continue a good dialogue between the town and its citizens on how to improve parking in downtown Boone.
“So far the feedback has all been positive. Everybody is really excited about bringing parking in house. I haven’t heard anything negative so far,” said Moody. “Parking is difficult in downtown; we need more of it. Each business has its own unique parking needs so I appreciated the feedback to see what we can do to accommodate them moving forward.
The new parking staff will consist of two staff members in the office who are already in place. Reta Jackson will be the parking manager and Bernice Braswell is in place as her office assistant. One full-time parking attendant is already in place and another was recently hired and will start at the end of July. Interviews are currently happening for four part-time parking staff positions.
Along with the new staff members, the town is implementing a brand new ticket writing system and office software system that is up and running as well.
“People have been really patient with us and we’re just really thankful and grateful for people’s patience,” said Moody.
So far the bumps in the road have been few and far between for the new staff and new system in place. While enforcing the parking rules in downtown will be at the top of each staff member’s job description, many feel that adding in the customer service responsibilities and information gatekeeper role will be positive for visitors and businesses.
“With businesses, parking is part of their livelihood so we want to make sure we are doing our best to address it but at the same time, being a good resource for our visitors is becoming very important,” said Moody. “Sometimes our parking staff is the only contact that visitors get with town staff so we want to make sure that is a positive experience. It’s a great problem to have though; at least Boone is not desolate.”
Marking tires with chalk a violation of the Constitution?
Another parking issue that has taken hold of some national headlines over the last few months was when a federal appeals court ruled that chalking tires is a violation of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit unanimously agreed that chalking tires is “a kind of trespass” according to Judge Bernice Donald.
As of right now, this ruling does not affect North Carolina as the 6th Circuit affects the states of Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee. However, now that there is a precedent, this could easily happen in the 4th Circuit, which is where North Carolina is located.
According to Lane Moody, Boone has not chalked tires since the new parking meters were originally installed in 2015.
For the town of Blowing Rock though, parking is still enforced by tire chalking.
According to Captain Aaron Miller of the Blowing Rock Police Department, they are aware of the ruling and will be waiting to see if the 4th Circuit Court will take up a similar case.
“In the meantime, we are looking at exploring other options. There are several ways of using other equipment to electronically ‘mark’ vehicles. The downside is that equipment is fairly expensive,” said Miller. “I expect that we will move to some type of electronic system in the near future. The real outcome to the 6th Circuit Court’s ruling is that parking enforcement will continue, but it will add an additional cost burden to taxpayers.”