Brittney Burns – Staff Writer
An issue that Franklin Mayor Bob Scott says has been ongoing for years, adequate parking for Franklin’s flourishing Main Street is once again a topic of discussion for town officials.
From the top of town hill to the first red light, 41 regular parking spaces and four handicap spaces line both sides of Main Street. The 45 parking spaces provide parking for the 31 businesses that make up Main Street’s store fronts. After continued complaints from businesses owners and shoppers alike, Scott brought up the parking dilemma for discussion during the December meeting of the Franklin Board of Aldermen.
Scott said that limiting parking for shoppers to two hours was one way to address the issue, but in order to do that, the town would have the added expense for enforcement of the rule. The installation of parking meters are a matter for the department of transportation and not something the local board can do on their own. In addition to enforcement issues with the parking time limit, members of the Franklin Board of Aldermen noted that if visitors decide to dine on Main Street and then shop after, a two hour limit wasn’t conducive to doing such.
Another more feasible option the board considered was to adopt an ordinance similar to that of Highlands, which prohibits individuals who own businesses on Main Street, and their employees, from parking on Main Street while they are working.
Highlands’ downtown business district parking ordinance states, “It shall be unlawful for a downtown business district employee to park a vehicle within the employee-restricted parking areas while such person is performing his duties as defined herein, except that two (2) employees in each real estate office located in the downtown business district shall be permitted to park a vehicle in said area.
(c) The provisions of this section shall be effective between the hours of 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday, between April 15 and Dec. 31 of each calendar year.
(d) The provisions of this section shall not apply to operators of vehicles displaying valid handicapped license plates or dashboard placards and parked in spaces reserved for the handicapped.
(e) The penalty for violating this section shall be set forth in the fee schedule maintained in the office of the clerk.”
Scott said Highlands enforces the ordinance based on the fact that law enforcement is familiar with who owns what businesses and who works there because of the relatively small community of Highlands, something Franklin can relate to.
While Highlands has adopted an ordinance and enforces it, the Franklin Board of Alderman gave the consensus to take a less invasive approach by directing Scott to make business owners on Main Street aware of Highlands’ ordinance and ask for a voluntary compliance, without needing to make it an ordinance.
Alderman and Main Street business owner Adam Kimsey noted that in addition to asking Main Street merchants to seek alternative parking, the town could increase the signage on Main Street to help visitors find parking. There are parking lots available along Stewart Street in front of the Kimsey’s business, the Rathskeller, as well as additional parking lots behind Main Street businesses like Outdoor 76. Town Hall also has a parking lot that is open and available to the public, but according to Alderman Joe Collins is underutilized and may benefit from new signage.
Collins also noted that it may be beneficial for the town to continue talks of creating additional parking around Main Street in terms of a long term plan in the form of a parking deck, that could extend from existing lots in town.