Davin Eldridge – Staff Eldridge

Like many other small mountain towns in Western North Carolina, there’s hardly anything more elusive to local government than finding solutions to the problems presented in regards to infrastructure. This is certainly a road small mountain towns like Franklin have traveled before.

Back in late March, Franklin’s town board approved an alternate parking scheme on Main Street, following years of continuing complaints by the public. Part of a 90 day trial run, the downtown area kept angled parking on the south side of Main Street, while changing the setup on the north side to parallel parking, from Town Hall to the gazebo.

During this period, Town Planner Justin Setser launched a survey which asked participating motorists for their input. At the town board’s Monday meeting, the results were in.

Out of the 47 total responses given, 33 were in favor of the temporary scheme set up by the town. Thirteen of those polled had a negative view of it. Just one respondent suggested the town revert back to the original scheme, while another suggested no parking be allowed on Main Street.

“That was roughly 70 and 28 percent – for and against it,” said Setser, explaining the single page survey was available online, as well as on paper at Town Hall. “For the most part it went over well.”

Respondents were asked their opinion on the level of ease, what they didn’t like about the setup, their thoughts on crosswalk visibility, to name a few.

A closer look at the results reveals those who reported the parking scheme as unfavorable were only so reticent. Five of the respondents made no comments or suggestions, while two suggested wider lanes might increase speeding. One person said the trial scheme would actually slow traffic down, and draw out the parking process even further. Another individual said the setup took too many spots. Two respondents said they’d prefer the trial setup if larger vehicles couldn’t park there, while two others said it almost caused an accident while they were parking. Setser said according to Franklin Police Department, no accidents or traffic-related issues have been reported on Main Street during the 90-day period.

“Seventeen percent mentioned something about the large vehicles being an issue, either liking it or disliking it,” he said.

Setser broke down the survey’s positive feedback further. Eleven of those in favor had no further suggestions. Nine suggested parking be on both sides of Main Street. Four said they’d prefer Main Street become a two way thoroughfare. Six said they still had an issue with the presence of “long trucks and vans on the left side, where angled parking is.” Two people said they wanted to see a parking deck downtown instead, while two others said they’d prefer the town provide green space along Main Street instead. Eleven reported that the visibility of Main Street’s crosswalks had improved. One person suggested making it one lane, another requested “better handicap signs”, and 13 other individuals said they liked that the town widened each lane by a foot each.

All town board members concurred with the results, each saying they received similar input from the public.

“Overwhelmingly positive,” said Brandon McMahan.

“Especially as time’s gone on, people continue to be real positive with their feedback,” said Adam Kimsey.

Mayor Bob Scott commented on the added ease of the new setup.

“I’ve actually been able to park on Main Street without hitting anything,” he said.

David Culpepper said the trial run’s “bulb-outs”–a feature which extends extra space to the side of parking spot ensures the ability for parallel parking on both sides of Main Street.

“Is that an option?” he asked. “It’s so much safer crossing the crosswalk on parallel parking side than it is poking your head out on the angled side.”

Nathanael Moore, town engineer, said the town’s options were open ended.

In essence, the town accepted part of the new parking scheme.

Joe Collins moved that the town finalize what’s already taped on the north side of the street and then implement the change on the other side of the street once all was final – contingent upon whether the state would agree to fund the change, as per the town’s next meeting with NCDOT. McMahan seconded, and the motion passed unanimously.