132 new parking meters coming to northern downtown Wilmington

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Parking spaces on N. Third Street just south of Harnett Street are currently marked but not metered. Photo by Hannah Leyva.
Parking spaces on N. Third Street just south of Harnett Street are currently marked but not metered. Photo by Hannah Leyva.

Over one hundred metered parking spaces will be added to the northern part of downtown Wilmington’s central business district near the Cape Fear Community College campus and PPD building.

Last week, Wilmington City Council voted to add 132 on-street parking spots in the area, which will be regulated beginning June 1. As northern downtown, which is also home to the Wilmington Convention Center, Port City Marina and the new CFCC Humanities and Fine Arts Center, continues to develop, city staff suggested the additional parking regulations.

The new meters will be located in an area bordered by Harnett Street on the north, Third Street on the east, Hanover Street on the south and Nutt Street on the west. Third Street will get the most meters, with 59 planned for a three-block span of the boulevard. Hanover Street will get the second highest amount with 27, and Second Street will have 26 new metered spaces.

Projected revenue from the new paid parking spots, which have two-hour limits, is estimated at $150,000 for the first 12 months. They will be in service from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. from Monday to Saturday.

Lanier Parking, which runs the other meters in Wilmington, will oversee the new additions. The Georgia-based company also got a contract extension from the city last week “based on Lanier’s performance, maintaining a parking citation collection rate within the parking industry’s standard and good customer survey results,” according to documents from the city.

The original contract was signed in April 2014 and included a provision for a two-year contract extension beyond the initial three-year contract under the same terms and conditions. The extension will begin Feb. 1, 2017 and end on Jan. 31, 2019.

City council also approved other parking changes, including the addition of a tour bus parking area in the 700 block of North Second Street, just outside CFCC’s Humanities and Fine Arts Center.

“The northern area is poised for future development, and with the development of the northern riverfront, there are needs for parking services and the additional bus parking in this area,” said the city’s Downtown Parking Manager Betty Gurganus, noting this was supplemental to the newly approved expansion of parking meters. “Cape Fear Community College’s Humanities and Fine Arts Center has certainly generated more traffic and tour buses in the area for events.”

The new bus parking area will also go into effect on June 1.

Changes were also made to the city’s residential parking program, which allows residents of certain qualifying areas (formerly “blocks” in the old ordinance) to request parking permits.

“We’ve had a lot of activity in the last couple of years and we feel that there is a need to make some amendments for the code from [when] it was initially accepted in 2003,” Gurganus said.

According to the program guidelines, qualifying areas must meet two requirements: the street must be 70 percent occupied, and 25 percent of vehicles parked there do not belong to residents of the immediate area. One of the amendments made now defines “eligible residents” as those listed as property owners according to New Hanover County tax records. Renters can get permits if they show proof of a 12-month lease.

There was also a recommendation for permits for visitors to be changed from 24-hour passes to 30-day passes. Each eligible resident is allowed to purchase up to 10 visitor passes a month at the cost of $5 each.

Councilman Kevin O’Grady said that while he was fine with most of the amendments, he questioned what the impetus was behind the changes to the visitor passes.

Gurganus said that some residents have come to her office asking for passes for visitors who come to stay with them for weddings, graduations or events that occur over long weekends.

“A 24-hour pass did not fit those needs,” Gurganus said, saying the 30-day suggestion came from neighbors that live in areas with residential parking programs.

“I don’t get the 30 days,” O’Grady said. “We’re talking about a residential area here. The idea of having 10 cars parked in front of a house over an extended period of time – that doesn’t sound residential to me, that sounds like we’re running some events, and we’re not supposed to be doing that in a residential area.”

Councilman Paul Lawler said he agreed with O’Grady.

“If it’s a weekend event, 48 hours would work well [enough],” Lawler said. “I don’t understand going all the way to 30 days.”

Gurganus said residents asking for visitor passes for weddings were holding small, private events for family and friends, not renting them out commercially.

“These homes are lovely and many of them are quite spacious, so they’ve been able to accommodate, and that’s where we’ve heard concerns and complaints [about visitors passes],” Gurganus said, offering another possible solution. “Maybe 72 hours would be an option given a long weekend.”

Councilman Charlie Rivenbark said his issue was with allowing owners to purchase that many passes for a month.

“It seems to me if you give somebody ten spaces, that’s taking up parking that the residents [could have],” said Rivenbark. “Ten parking spaces is a hell of a lot of spaces on a block.”

Mayor Pro-Tem Margaret Haynes agreed.

“I think we’re opening a Pandora’s Box if we allow people to get 10 passes for 30 days,” Haynes said. “There won’t be anywhere for people that live there to park.”

O’Grady made a motion to pass the resolution, but limit visitor passes to a 48-hour period. Lawler seconded the motion, and it was passed 6 – 0 (Councilman Neil Anderson was given an excused absence.)

City council also voted unanimously to establish residential parking programs on the west side of the 200 block of Third Street and on the 200 block of Ann Street after residents petitioned for that designation and city staff deemed those areas eligible for the program. They go into effect on May 31.