Task force recommends new parking solutions for downtown Columbia

Related Story

COLUMBIA - Downtown parking congestion may have a new remedy.

The Parking and Management Task Force made recommendations Wednesday to present to the Planning and Zoning Commission. 

The first recommendation was to maintain the 25 percent parking requirement for housing developments downtown. 

That requirement means for every apartment, every fourth bedroom has to have a parking space. 

"One of the most selling facts we have discovered as we look at all the residential developments is some of them have parking requirements, some have not. Overall they have averaged about 25 percent. So that makes sense that we're in the pocket for what the market is providing for housing," Co-Chair Michael Trapp said. 

The second recommendation is to not proceed with fees-in-lieu of parking spaces. Fees-in-lieu would mean business and housing developments would purchase or rent out existing parking spaces. During the meeting, Representative of the Downtown Community Improvement District Deb Sheals said there isn't enough spaces to consider fees-in-lieu at this time. 

The last recommendation was to increase parking enforcement by assembling a parking commission. The commission would look at and address complex issues and ongoing changes in downtown parking. 

"This kind of enforcement may be a good way to ensure a high turnover for downtown business where people are parking more than two hours," Trapp said. 

The task force learned people are storing their cars long-term and is coming up with recommendations to enforce a 24 hour time limit for parking on a street or in a garage. That would include changing the time limit on downtown meters from two to three hours and enforce the existing 24 hour time limit in garages. 

One Columbia resident said extending meter time may not help the problem. 

"I think it could make it a little harder to find meters. Once you do find one, people stay put more often. At least if you have a smaller, shorter amount of time that you can be at the meter before you have to move, there's a lot of change over," Ryan James said. 

"There are enough unresolved issues around parking that after we resolve our zoning code changes, which are very time limited, that we should decide whether a parking commission is in order. I believe it is. Then we should hand these decisions over to a permanent body which in turn can take the time to learn the issues in depth," Trapp said. 

The force will make its recommendations by the planning and zoning meeting toward the end of October.