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Here’s where it’ll cost to park in Rock Hill. How much? It depends.

As more people come play, watch, live, work, eat and stay in Rock Hill, city leaders need a plan for what to do with all those vehicles. And it won’t be free.

Rock Hill City Council gave preliminary approval Monday night to a fee structure for paid parking in University Center. The fees apply to the coming parking garage near the Rock Hill Sports & Event Center and on-street parking near it. The paid parking plan does not apply to existing parking structures.

The new parking deck, Deck K, would be free for the first 90 minutes and $1 an hour up to a $5 maximum daily rate under most circumstances. On-street parking in the area would be free up to 30 minutes and $2 for up to an hour, then $1 an hour up to a $25 max. Special event deck parking could cost as much as $25.

“The fees are intended to cover a portion of the cost related to the parking services, including operating and maintenance expenses,” said Cindi Howard, general services director for the city.

The paid parking plan comes as city leaders look out at a burgeoning area.

“Current and future restaurants, hotels, businesses and retailers located within the confines of the University Center are going to generate a constant demand for parking,” Howard said.

The fees are aimed at the sports site, which leaders expect to be booked routinely for large events. Money will be needed for parking employees and software to keep the deck running smoothly. The city will have a parking management supervisor and two parking attendants. A variety of payment options and support are planned to make parking easy.

“Without having a successful parking experience,” Howard said of the sports site, “we have to have that so that they don’t walk away from that and not participate or have something in the future.”

Rock Hill has a free parking deck on Black Street. A developer last year approached the city with an apartment and commercial project at Dave Lyle, Main Street and White Street that would include a parking deck.

The current changes up for council decision only involve the new University Center options. However, parking rule changes could come, including penalties for parking violations.

“I could almost see that you’re better off not paying your fees, getting a ticket,” said Councilman Kevin Sutton, based on city code parking penalties “And you can pay the ticket in 30 days and it’s cheaper than paying the fee schedule.”

City staff expects further changes on parking agreements. City attorney Paul Dillingham said the initial focus was the new deck.

“I just wanted to focus on what needed to be done in anticipation of the deck opening,” he said.

The revenue system is being installed in Deck K this month. Parking could begin there by the end of the month. It will have a pay-on-foot kiosk for preset amounts of time or pay at the gate with a credit card. Online parking payment also is an option. There will be 24-7 support via video intercom. A count will be taken on how many vehicles enter and exit.

“We also have validated parking capabilities,” Howard said.

City staff will have the option to raise the gates for large events for free parking. Tickets to events can include parking, and parking passes can be emailed. While events could charge up to $25 to park, not all would.

“The rates can be tailored to specific types of events,” Howard said.

Needs are different, Sutton said, among University area residents who may want to park all day and night on the street versus a business.

“As University Center builds out and you have residents and businesses, you will need to do some pretty significant enforcement if there’s a dry cleaner or if there’s a restaurant that needs that space to turn over,” Sutton said.

Mayor John Gettys agrees council needs to have that conversation, though it isn’t necessarily part of the parking deck fee structure.

“It’s, do we want people on-street parking for an extended amount of time in a manner that would hurt any businesses that are located on the street?” he said. “Which shouldn’t be in this conversation. It’s a policy decision.”

For now, the city is focusing on the new parking deck and on-street parking after it opens.

“We’ve decided right now just to get started,” Howard said.

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John Marks covers community growth, municipalities and general news mainly in the Fort Mill and York County areas. He began writing for the Herald and sister papers in 2005 and won dozens of South Carolina Press Association and other awards since.
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