Rock Hill Council delays action on tougher downtown parking fines

Council to consider downtown businesses’ views, less lenience for repeat offenders

nsmith@heraldonline.com March 13, 2012 

  • Prime parking Rock Hill limits downtown parking to two hours along parts of Black, East Main, Hampton and Caldwell streets. The restriction is enforced from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Restricted spaces are designated with yellow stripes and signs. If those “prime spaces” are occupied by business owners in the area or others for several hours in the day, it could be discouraging to visitors and customers, Lawrence said. In white-striped spaces, all-day parking is allowed. Other all-day parking includes the parking deck at Dave Lyle Boulevard and Black Street.
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People who repeatedly violate downtown Rock Hill’s 2-hour parking limit, or don’t pay their tickets, could face stricter punishments this summer.

City Council considered changes to several parking laws Monday night, several of which would target repeat offenders by imposing increased fines and sending their cases to municipal court when they don’t pay.

The council, however, delayed action, wanting more input from downtown business owners.

Under the proposal, people would receive warnings on their first three parking violations. For the fourth through eighth violations, the proposed fine is a $10 fine, or $5 if they pay it within 30 days. Fines escalate to $25 for ninth through 13th , $40 for 14th through 18th violations and $60 for 19th and successive violations.

If a person reaches 20 violations, or $400 in unpaid tickets, his car will be towed.

City Council members Kevin Sutton and John Black requested that the Council delay approval, suggesting even tighter enforcement and more input from downtown retailers.

“It’s always been one of those hot-button issues downtown,” Sutton said.

He and Black said people who repeatedly offend should see consequences before they reach their 20th violation.

Downtown development manager David Lawrence said the changes hopefully would give visitors and customers a chance for better parking, as well as create more turnover of spaces. Currently, downtown parking is handled by the city’s Economic Development Department.

“We do that because we’re trying to do customer service in that we’d like the prime parking spaces – the ones on the street near the restaurants and businesses – to change over throughout the day,” Lawrence said. “We’d like people to come and go, so we have this two-hour limited parking.”

Sutton and Black were also concerned that more downtown business owners had not expressed opinions on the enforcement ideas.

At Monday’s meeting, Old Town Bistro owner Lucas Giannatos said two hours is a good amount of time for customers and visitors.

“If somebody likes it and wants to stay all day, we have plenty of parking (downtown),” he said.

Michelle Sheehy, a manager with Periwinkle Cafe & Bakery, said she thinks the enforced parking is a good idea.

“I don’t know if it’ll bring more people downtown, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt,” she said.

Also included in plans for downtown parking is a $2,300 handheld device purchased last year.

By entering a car’s license plate number, a parking officer would be able to determine immediately whether the driver has violated downtown parking rules and, if so, the number of violations. The device would then print a ticket with the appropriate fine.

“We’re field-testing it now,” Lawrence said.

“That goes hand in hand with these changes.

“We need to have the changes so we can go forward with the device.”

July 1 was the intended start date for the new fines, which would give officials time to inform residents of the consequences.

With the final approval pending, a new start date was not yet available.

City Council voted to defer action on the new policy for at least 30 days.

Nicole E. Smith 803-329-4068

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