Brittney Lofthouse – Staff Writer.
From campaign promises to downtown improvements, Franklin leaders have discussed parking — or the lack thereof— on Main Street for years. The only concrete thing that has ever been done, is a parking study, and Monday night, with the issue yet again finding its way on the town’s agenda, the only concrete thing that was decided, is that no more studies are needed.
At Monday evening’s continuation meeting of the Franklin Town Council, parking on Main Street was again a major point of discussion.
Council member Joe Collins told his fellow board members, that the town had talked about it for long enough and wanted the board to make a decision to do something, anything during the board meeting on Sept. 18.
“We have gone around the block a time or two and had some seed money to get plans, drafts, ideas, and we’ve never budgeted any money or even agreed on a plan that sounds good,” Collins said. “It doesn’t seem to me we have the resources right now to go ahead with how we’d all like it to look. I, personally, though, do not like the current configuration in that it’s woefully hard to back out if you can’t see anything coming.”
The majority of the board agreed with Collins, that something needed to be done, but as far as Collins’ call for immediate action, the board once again decided to look into it more and make more plans. This time, however, the town’s newly hired engineer, Nathanael Moore, said with his expertise and experience with the North Carolina Department of Transportation, he could work with the town’s Planning Director Justin Setser to take up the issue in-house without additional funds — and certainly without another study.
“I don’t believe that we need to go out and spend another $10,000 to $20,000 on a plan that’s going to sit there, when we have enough information in front of us right now,” said Moore.
Collins said that with the information the town already has and spent taxpayer dollars to acquire over the years, something should be able to be done sooner rather than later. Moore said he supported Collins’ suggestion of considering temporarily changing the markings for vehicle parking in order to see how it would impact the traffic flow and pedestrian crossing.
“We can change some markings around, and try it for a couple of weeks. That way, we could at least get a feel of how we can change things, like do some different angles and spots. I know that no one is going to like this, but there will be some spots that will be taken away. There’s no way around having that many parking spots and allowing some sight distance in those crosswalks.”
Moore said that making the north side parallel parking and consider the same on the south side or consider 45 degree angles rather than what the town currently has could potentially alleviate a lot of the problem.
Town Manager Summer Woodard said rather than just going ahead and doing it, she could work with Moore and Setser to develop a plan in-house to present to the board in November.
“If this is something that the board would be interested in, it’s kind of late in the month now to have something for the October meeting, but I believe between (Town Planner) Mr. Setser, Mr. Moore, and myself, we could have at least a little bit more information for the board at the November meeting to tell you what we could come up with,” she said.
This spring, the town agreed to try out temporary parking at the request of Mayor Bob Scott, but nothing ever came of it. According to Woodard, safety was a factor.
“The reason one lane was not tried out last Spring was due to safety concerns and liability,” said Woodard. Without giving details of how the new plan is different than that from the Spring, Woodard did say something could possibly be ready by November. “There is a project we are working on in-house and will have more information at the November Town Council meeting.”
In addition to not enough parking spaces, Scott said the town is still experiencing significant problems with Main Street businesses owners parking on Main Street, taking up with few spaces the town has.
“One [additional thing the plan could look at] is, we still have a problem that doesn’t cost any money to correct, and that is the number of people working on Main Street that park on Main Street all day long,” said Mayor Scott. “Number two, we need a couple of loading zones that need to be worked into this, because we have FedEx, UPS, and people who bring in their bicycles to the bicycle shop on Main Street that are all unloading.”