SP businesses oppose back-in parking
BY TED M. NATT JR.
A trial for back-in angled parking in downtown Southern Pines appears to be dead in the wake of a recent survey showing near-unanimous opposition from merchants.
The survey, conducted last week by the Broad Street Merchant Community, found that 56 of 60 business owners oppose the trial. Just three supported it, and one took no position.
"Given these results, (we) are requesting that back-in parking be removed from consideration for our downtown business district. The concept is not appropriate for our district," Tony Grausso, a founder of Broad Street Merchant Community, said in a letter delivered Monday to Town Manager Reagan Parsons.
Mayor David McNeill said Tuesday that the Town Council had not made a formal decision on the matter.
"But I think the consensus is to stick with the current parking configuration," McNeill said. "It's obviously a project whose time has yet to come. Maybe somewhere down the road, but not right now."
Bruce Bishop, president of the Southern Pines Business Association (SPBA), said the survey results came as no surprise.
"It's very apparent that downtown merchants share a near-unanimous opinion that back-in angle parking would have a negative impact on sales," Bishop said. "A back-in angle parking trial appears to be the only aspect of the bike plan that won't work in downtown Southern Pines."
Grausso said Tuesday that merchants are "eagerly awaiting" an official response from the council.
"Based on our survey results, we anticipate a favorable outcome that will be the final judgment on this issue," he said. "We appreciate the fact that they have allowed us to present our individual and collective opinion on this very critical matter."
Town Council member Chris Smithson said he was disappointed that there wasn't enough support for a trial because studies show that back-in angle parking increases safety for bicyclists, pedestrians and motorists.
"I thought it was worth giving it a shot to see if it would work for us, but it doesn't appear that is going to happen," Smithson said. "The plan called for doing a test on a side street. But you can't ignore the fact that almost all of the downtown merchants are against it, and other members of the community have said they won't even come downtown if it's implemented."
The Southern Pines Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) was leaning toward recommending the 200 block of North West Broad Street in downtown Southern Pines, with its second choice being the same block of Broad on the other side of the railroad tracks.
The committee previously eliminated a third option - New York Avenue between Broad and Bennett streets - because a plastic divider would have to be erected in the middle of the two-way street.
Dan Kohn, who chairs the committee, appeared before the council last January to present the three options but was told to engage downtown merchants and other stakeholders before making a recommendation.
Kohn said the committee is still gathering feedback.
"We want to make sure that everyone has a chance to voice their opinion. There's a process to all of this and we've got to respect that process," he said. "I think that due diligence is important. You never know. I just want to make sure the committee has fulfilled its advisory role on this issue."
Grausso said merchants are respective of the need to include the downtown district in the bike plan.
"The merchant community wants to accommodate BPAC in a way that makes sense for all stakeholders," he said.
Grausso suggested that Ashe Street be considered for a park-and-lock bicycle facility as part of the downtown park.
Back-in angle parking has existed for decades but has been implemented sporadically around the country. Charlotte and Cary are the only municipalities in North Carolina that currently have back-in angle parking on several streets.
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at email@example.com.
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