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Parking in city should expand

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The city of Fredericksburg plans to lease 40 spaces behind the Princess Anne Building to increase downtown parking on evenings and weekends.

Details are still being worked out as to how this will impact congregants of nearby churches who had been using spaces in that lot on Sunday mornings.

The City Council took a preliminary vote on Tuesday to approve a new ordinance that would allow City Manager Bev Cameron to work out details for churches and other situations when the city might want to make an exception to charging for parking in those spaces.

Cameron said his staff had been researching the issue because parking is a long-term problem in the down town area.

The lease would be for two years at a cost of $15,000 per year, paid in monthly increments.

The spaces behind 904 Princess Anne St. would be available starting on Jan. 1, if all approvals move forward. The spaces would be available weekends, holidays and from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. on weekdays. The city will install signs and a pay station at a cost of about $17,000.

Assistant City Manager Mark Whitley estimated the city would also spend $1,000 to $2,000 annually for snow removal and maintenance.

At Tuesday’s meeting, council members voted 5–0 to authorize Cameron to execute the lease, presuming the Planning Commission agrees it complies with the city’s Comprehensive Plan. Mayor Mary Katherine Greenlaw did not vote, citing a conflict of interest. Councilwoman Kerry Devine was absent.

In identical 5–0 votes, council members also voted to appropriate the funds needed for the parking costs and gave preliminary approval for a new ordinance governing the fees and fines for the lot. A final vote on the ordinance is expected at the council’s Dec. 10 meeting.

The proposal is to charge $1 per hour for parking and a $25 fine for parking inappropriately or over the allotted time. The owners of the Princess Anne Building also maintain the right to tow any vehicles left in the lot during weekday business hours.

The ordinance gives Cameron authority to “lower or waive the fees to promote economic development, provide for community gatherings, or if it is otherwise in the best interests of the city to do so.”

That authority is where Cameron will address the issue of people wishing to use the lot during worship services.

Council members Bea Paolucci and Brad Ellis expressed concern about the churches’ needs before the issue was clarified.

Paolucci wants further discussion on the matter before the ordinance gets final approval.

She said she has no problem with giving Cameron authority to waive the fees for exceptions but wants to discuss giving an ongoing waiver for the churches since that is not done in other areas of the city. She also was concerned about the impact of doing it for one group and not others.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Councilman Fred Howe commended city staff on making plans to lease spaces from a business, calling it a great first step to utilize existing parking.

He said the cost of leasing the spaces is “pale compared to building” a lot.

Cameron said the plan is to use a parking-meter system that would allow people to extend their time in a space using their cellphones. That would eliminate the need for them to leave a restaurant or gathering if time was expiring.

“I think that is an absolutely cool feature,” Howe said.

Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972 pgould@freelancestar.com

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