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Whether its free holiday parking downtown or day-to-day parking, Beaufort City Council agreed on one thing Tuesday night: it needs to be plentiful and simple.
With that in mind, council members discussed strategies for free holiday parking downtown, additional parking on Carteret Street and the creation of parallel parking, sidewalks and greenery in the Old Commons area. Here's the breakdown:
After confusion at last month's meeting about proposed changes to the traditional two-hour free parking downtown, officials from the city and Main Street Beaufort, USA, offered a simpler proposal.
If approved by council, parking at all 412 paid spots downtown would be free for two hours per vehicle from Thanksgiving to New Years. People who want to park longer would have to put money into the meters or parking kiosks.
In the past, only certain spots were included and bags over the top of meters prevented buying additional time. Those who wanted to stay longer had to move their vehicle or chance getting a ticket
The city contracts with Lanier Parking Meter Services LLC. During an average month, it costs $21,165 to operate the meters. About $34,740 is collected. Profits are split between Main Street Beaufort and the Redevelopment Authority. During last year's free parking period, meters operated at a $6,800 loss.
"If Main Street ... is willing to pay by losing that part of the money and the Redevelopment Commission is their partner and is willing to give up the money, then the issue that I think we should focus on is making sure whatever they do is fair and easily understood," Mayor Billy Keyserling said.
Main Street Beaufort Executive Director LaNelle Fabian said the group is working on stickers for meters, posters for businesses and an ad campaign to educate visitors and residents on how the free parking will work. Council might hold a special voting meeting Tuesday on the proposal.
A city study found that 16 on-street parking spaces could be created by converting loading zones and adding spots where there is additional space between intersections.
Six paid, four-hour-limit spaces could be added between Bay and Craven streets, according to the proposal. Ten free spaces could be added between Craven and Duke streets.
Depending on availability of funds this year or next, city planner Libby Anderson discussed bringing forward a formal proposal to add parallel parking, sidewalks and trees to Greene Street near th University of South Carolina Beaufort.
"Hopefully you agree that the absence of on-street parking is one of the biggest hindrances to redevelopment in the downtown area," Anderson said.
The plan would start with Greene Street between Carteret and Charles streets, she said, and eventually move to Congress. Washington and Duke streets would follow.
Preliminary costs estimates were $114,705 per block.