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BOPW OKs parking compromise

SIGN: New signs designating 12 2-hour parking spots in the Market-Washington permit lot will go up in the next week or two, along with four 2-hour parking spots in the Franklin Street lot.

by Andrew Maciejewski - amaciejewski@h-ponline.com

After downtown business owners opposed the City’s parking reconfiguration to make room for the new Police Station in the Cherry Street lot, city officials and business owners have reached a compromise.

Downtown business owners expressed concerns at the January Board of Works and Public Safety meeting about the loss of customer parking in city-owned lots, particularly the lot between Washington and Market streets nearest Cherry Street. The parking spots in that area were originally all turned into permit parking only, according to the Nov. 5, 2018 parking reconfiguration, but since then, Police Chief Chad Hacker said there is a solution to add 2-hour parking spaces in that lot and two others.

Hacker said he’s happy they finally came to a temporary solution that serves the customers and businesses as best as possible as they work toward a third-party study into downtown parking needs, which is scheduled to be completed sometime this summer.

“Ever since this came to light, I have probably have had more feedback and ideas from the downtown business owners than I’ve ever had before,” Hackers said. “It’s unfortunate that it took on the concern that it did. I was never out to hurt anyone’s business or anything like that. I was trying to do what was best for everyone involved downtown. I think, in the end, this is probably going to work out good for everybody. We’ll sit down, we’ll talk as a group, and I’m all about doing what we can to keep everyone as happy as possible. We aren’t going to always make everyone happy, but if we can come to that middle ground, that’s what it’s all about.”

Under the agreement, some of the employees and business owners will give up their permits with the city and seek rental spots in privately-owned lots, which opens up 12 two-hour parking spots in the lot between Washington and Market streets, with six on the north end and six on the south end.

The agreement also calls for adding four 2-hour parking spots off Franklin Street next to the LaFontaine Center.

These changes received approval from the Board of Public Works and Safety on Jan. 21, and Hacker said the signs are planned to be installed sometime this week or next week, weather permitting.

The parking study planned for this summer will look at how the city will be best served by its available spots, more than 200 2-hour parking spots in total. Two business owners will sit on a review board along with a Huntington County Chamber of Commerce member, someone with the engineering department, a downtown resident and Chief Hacker to ensure the study meets everyone’s needs.

“There are a bunch of parking spots in downtown Huntington,” Hacker said. “I think there’s enough parking spots for everyone if we utilize it the right way.”

Permit parking is only enforced from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, but outside of these hours, anyone can park there. Permit parking was established in order to keep employees and owners from using up parking spaces that should be reserved to customers.

Although the city lost around 70 public parking spots by the displacement of Cherry Street permits to other city-owned lots, the number of public parking spots in downtown Huntington has increased by 20 since 2016, after the City of Huntington acquired and constructed a lot at Schenkel Station, Rotary Park and the Huntington County Annex Building.

There are 129 permit spots in city-owned lots downtown, there are more than 200 2-hour parking spots for the public in downtown plus an additional 49 2-hour parking spots in city-owned permit lots.