WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - City staff are proposing parking changes in the residential Historic District of downtown Wilmington.
City Council held it’s first regular meeting of November on Wednesday, one day delayed because of Election Day on Tuesday.
City staff presented a resolution to council proposing a one year pilot study that would further restrict public parking in the areas of:
• 200 block South Second St. (Permit Only Parking 9:00 AM – 3:00 AM daily)
• 200 block Orange St., 100 block Ann St., 200 block Ann St., 300 block South Second St. (One (1) hour parking for non-permit holders 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM daily; Permit only parking 5:00 PM – 3:00 AM daily).
Michael Smith lives on 2nd Street and says neighbors are coming home to find no parking availability near their homes at all hours, but particularly on weekend evenings.
“You find yourself riding around, and almost needing to go to the parking garage while the public are occupying the spaces and we live there 365 days a year,” Smith said. “Examples of that are coming home with groceries, you know, and you’re half a block away from your house because there’s a birthday party on at the children’s museum or there’s a class on at the community art center or tourists are parking on the street.”
The Children’s Museum of Wilmington sits on Orange Street and shares curb space with residents of 2nd Street. Visitors regularly utilize the nearby parking spaces. Executive Director Jim Karl addressed council and shared his frustration at not being part of the planning process for this pilot program.
“We’re here for the community and we’re going to try to continue to do that. What I really expressed, was, I agree there’s a problem, but what I expressed is for us to be successful as a family-friendly operation, we need parking,” Karl said.
Karl believes that the financial impact of the program might be one that the museum can’t come back from, explaining that “50% of our revenue is people through the door. So even if this reduces that by 5%, that’s enough to put us under, just because someone can’t park and then get tired of coming here.”
The city council meeting even made Karl believe that the city doesn’t value the museum.
“Specifically in downtown, I think we’re a real asset and it’s hard for me to walk away from that saying, ‘does anyone else think we’re a real asset?’ because if you’re going to change someone’s livelihood, you should at least check,” he said.
Karl hopes to work with city staff to find a mutually agreeable solution.
Most of downtown Wilmington is paid parking whether in metered street spots, in the parking decks or in pay-to-park lots, but a gap in the existing code for this area means it is free to park along the street in these residential areas during certain times of day.
In a letter to City Council, City Manager Sterling Cheatham writes:
The City’s RPP (Residential Parking Permit) Program was first established in 1996, adding parking restrictions on 10 blocks downtown, during the hours of 11:00 PM – 3:00 AM, daily for resident only permit parking. The RPP Program was revised in 2002, adding parking restrictions for non-permit holders during the hours of 9:00 AM – 6:30 PM, Monday – Saturday. There were no parking restrictions established during the hours of 6:30 PM – 11:00 PM Monday – Saturday or on Sunday, leaving a “gap” in enforcement of the program.
City staff are also proposing fee and fine increases for people who buy annual residential parking permits and for those who receive citations for violating parking regulations. Both the cost of one annual permit and the fine for a violation would increase from $25 to $40.
You can read city staff’s full proposal here.