Downtown churches express concerns over limited parking

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COLUMBIA - Heavy construction and bagged meters have left some downtown houses of worship with big parking issues. 

Downtown churches including the Missouri United Methodist Church, the Calvary Episcopal Church, and the First Presbyterian Church expressed limited parking concerns due to limited parking, storing cars overnight on Saturdays, bagged meters, and student housing. 

Greg Cecil, the representative for the group of downtown churches, fears church members won't attend on Sunday mornings because they can't find a place to park. 

Cecil said the churches have small parking lots, and construction has left approximately 154 standard metered parking places. 

"The parking meters have been covered, although I guess they can be used on Sunday mornings, but some people don’t know if they can park in those, so there’s a lot of issues out there that we really don’t have the answers to." 

The Parking and Traffic Management Task Force met Wednesday to discuss solutions to the limited parking. 

In a summary of issues to the Parking and Traffic Management Task Force, the churches listed the following suggestions to relieve the scarce parking including: 

  1. Disallow overnight parking in spaces adjacent to downtown churches. 
  2. Not allow weekend overnight parking on the first floor of the parking garage at 10th and Cherry and the Hitt Street parking garage. 
  3. Evaluate the length of time that contractors need to bag meters during the week and monitor their use. 
  4. Require that workers' vehicles be parked off site and the workers bussed to the construction project.  

“A lot of folks just warehouse their car. They can’t keep it in a parking garage, so they just leave it there overnight and so it’s not like they’re attending anything special. They’re just taking up that space. So you know, we’d like to have them in church.” 

Some task force members, including the churches, expressed no over overnight parking could unintentionally encourage some to drive home while intoxicated. 

"There is some sensitivity in making sure that we don't force, well encourage, the youth that have been drinking too much to move their vehicles in anticipation of this time before their ready to," Councilman Karl Skala said.  

Other suggestions included valet parking, transit for church members, and paying for metered parking on Sundays. 

Skala said the task force will continue to discuses options in next week's meeting.