Columbia residents express concern with proposed parking regulations

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COLUMBIA - Columbia Public Works intended to solidify a plan to place a "Residential Parking by Permit Only" program in the Benton Stephens community at its Wednesday meeting, but was met with firm opposition.

In a survey last year, it was brought to the city of Columbia's attention that the Benton Stephens neighborhood near Stephens College, among other areas, had an issue of too many cars parking in residential areas.  Since the release of the survey, the city has held meetings to come up with a plan to combat the problem. One of those ways was implementing a Residential Parking by Permit Only program, or RPPO.

At Wednesday's meeting held by Columbia Public Works, more than 30 members of the Benton Stephens community attended to express concern with the city's proposal. 

“I do feel that this is a Band-Aid solution to a larger problem. Parking is a symptom of a problem that is ongoing in our particular neighborhood," said President of the Benton Stephens Neighborhood Association Peter Norgard.

Norgard and his neighbors presented many issues that have lead to over-parking in his neighborhood, including Stephens College students, Brookside residents who don't want to pay to park in their garage and lack of enforcement of illegally parked cars. Norgard said the real issue is the fast development rates of their community. 

“The best cost for the city solution, or the best solution for the city, is to make sure that the program is sustainable. Basically pays for itself," said Engineering Manager for Columbia Public Works Richard Stone. 

At the meeting, Stone presented to community members a similar RPPO proposal to the one implemented in North Village. Each household was given two parking permits at no cost, guest passes and meters were put in to help pay for the cost of the program. 

“Not everybody will get 100 percent potentially of what they would like, but we want to try to at least listen to everybody, provide that information to council, so that council make an informed decision," Stone said. 

"It's unsustainable at this point. And we would like to see the city try to actively work with our neighborhood to at least make it sustainable," Norgard said. “This problem is not a parking problem. Parking is just a symptom. And we need to deal with the real issues, which is to make growth in our areas more sustainable.” 

The meeting ended with a request from the Benton Stephens Neighborhood Association to take the city's proposal to the next association meeting on March 22 to discuss and vote on the details to take back to the city.