That’s the consensus drawn by Main Street director Matthew Williams and the LaFayette Downtown Development Authority and presented to the public at a town hall meeting Thursday evening, Feb. 21.
The number, which is based on parking requirements per state and local codes, leaves the city at a loss as to how to best meet the downtown parking needs of its citizens.
The town hall meeting was held to air parking grievances and discuss possible solutions.
Some of the most common complaints included a dearth of parking spaces during specific times of day, specifically on court days and during popular post-working day gym times.
Also, many small business owners on the square complained that their customer parking was either being taken up by other businesses or had been lost to the sidewalk-expanding Streetscape project, which re-tooled the downtown portion of Villanow Street within the past year.
According to Williams, the downtown area requires 447 parking spaces per the codes on the books. Currently, there are 158 spaces in the square alone. Factoring in the many public lots which are available, and which are rarely used, leaves a balance of 141.
Williams and others expressed their hopes that people would park in some of the unused public lots, which would necessitate walking a little bit farther to their destination.
“We went and counted off spaces ourselves at the old courthouse parking lot,” said Williams, “there’s a lot of spaces there, and there was not one car parked there, not one. There’s empty parking lots all around the square. Not on the square, but within a one block proximity. There’s all kinds of spaces, but people don’t use them, for whatever reason.”
Business owners and employees in particular, he said, could find places to park which would leave the storefront spots open for their customers. One of the most popular proposed solutions during the meeting involved placing signage directing drivers to some of the more unused public spaces, in the hopes that they would see more regular use.
“One of the things that we do not have is good signage directing people to some of the parking areas that we do have,” said DDA chairman Michael Lovelady.
Other suggestions included a parking garage, which would be prohibitively expensive, parking meters or designated time-limited spaces, or perhaps making one-block sections of West Villanow and Patton streets one-way thoroughfares. The latter solution would make it very difficult for local industry transfer trucks to navigate, making it an unlikely answer.
The city of LaFayette is likely to bring up proposed solutions for discussion in its next city council meeting.