SALISBURY — Parking in downtown Salisbury could see some significant changes in the form of discounted parking passes or the elimination of meters if recent discussion by the City Council bears fruit.
“We have had businesses express concern over the cost of parking in the downtown area,” City Administrator John Pick told the council Monday.
According to Pick, the main worry from merchants is that the price and availability of parking spots is having a detrimental effect against brining customers into the city. Additionally, it is draining for businesses to have to pay for employee parking passes. Pick briefed the council on some possible solutions.
One of the most popular ideas, he said, would be to offer a multi-parking permit discount to businesses. With the current permit customer list, Pick said Salisbury would see a loss of about $39,000 from those parking permits if a discount was offered; the flipside, of course, being that the money would remain with the merchants and hopefully help produce a boost to business.
Councilmember Debbie Campbell expressed some interest in the discount idea but saw it as something of a half-measure in dealing with parking troubles.
Campbell added that she’s “okay with discounts” but thinks the discount should not apply to large “institutional” businesses.
Campbell proposed setting a ceiling on the number of discount passes for businesses.
Besides passes for businesses, Campbell also said that she’d like to see some changes with customer parking downtown.
“Maybe we could take all of the meters away,” she proposed.
The elimination of parking meters would most likely lead to a measurable boost in downtown visitors, predicted Campbell. As for the revenue lost by such an action, she suggested a collective merchant group that could pay into a street upkeep fund. In her opinion, the money devoted to such a fund would be less than the extra revenue coming in from increased customer traffic.
Councilmember Laura Mitchell also brainstormed parking meter solutions. Instead of completely removing meters, she at least felt that the time they allotted could be increased to give people a longer period to shop and move around without having to worry about re-visiting their meter. There was also the matter of parking availability, which Mitchell felt the council needed to keep on the radar since she has heard a number of complaints from motorists who have had difficulty finding a spot during peak hours.
Since it was only a work session, the council won’t be acting yet. Campbell reminded everyone of the complexity of the parking situation downtown and the need to weigh every change carefully.