At an April 4 City Council meeting, councilors voted 4-1 to move forward with a plan to install parking meters at 157 parking spaces around the Downtown Mall, as part of a six-month pilot program.
Those spaces, which are currently free, will cost $2 an hour, in 15-minute increments, with the first 30 minutes free, according to the Council agenda. Parkers will be required to pay from 8am to 8pm Monday through Saturday. But a number of people, especially those working on the mall and currently parking in those spaces for free, are upset.
Councilor Bob Fenwick, who cast the dissenting vote, calls the measure “governance by resolution,” and notes there was no public hearing for the plan, nor were stakeholders, such as the Chamber of Commerce, there.
“This is a greedy and entitled move,” says Ben King’s online petition to have council reconsider its decision. As a downtown restaurant worker, he believes knocking out free parking spaces is “completely lacking in empathy” and the next link in a chain of decisions that aim to make Charlottesville exclusive. “A community should be working towards inclusion and not the opposite,” the petition reads.
At press time, just more than 300 supporters had signed the petition and agree that paid parking will deter, rather than attract, visitors.
“People generally don’t like meters,” said Chris Engel, the city’s director of economic development, who presented the resolution at the council meeting. But in other cities that have implemented similar meter plans, he says residents and businesses have both found that they benefited.