City council tables vote on downtown parking


The Seymour City Council has put the breaks on raising downtown parking fines.

The amendment to increase parking tickets from $3 to $10 passed a first reading Aug. 10 unanimously and was set to be adopted Monday.

But an impassioned plea from downtown business owner Alan Killey and a recommendation from Seymour Chamber of Commerce President Dan Robison led the council to table the issue.

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Killey, who operates Hair Force Beauty Academy at 119 E. Second St., spoke at both meetings.

He says the city needs to do more to help fill vacant buildings downtown, not discourage people from coming downtown by raising parking tickets.

After doing some research, he learned around 240 tickets are given out a year, which equals about one a day during the week, he said. Parking is not enforced on the weekends.

Of the 240 tickets, Killey said half were never paid, and most of those were issued to just one person.

“What are you going to do when no one pays these tickets?” he asked the council.

Clerk-Treasurer Darrin Boas said he just recently learned that collection of parking ticket fines is one of his duties.

“Letters have gone out to people who haven’t been paying their parking tickets,” Boas said. “If they continue not to pay, it goes to the license branch and it affects their registration the following year.”

The tickets not only hurt businesses, they have a negative impact on people who live downtown, Killey said. And residential living in the downtown is what it needs to thrive again, he added.

Another issue Killey pointed out is that there are several service businesses downtown, including his, that require customers to be there for longer than two hours.

“You’re going to kill the downtown,” he said. “You can’t raise prices on a ticket and think that’s going to make the downtown boom.”

To educate himself more on the issue, Robison said he recently spent the day walking around downtown with the city parking clerk.

“I got to see firsthand where some of the opportunities are,” he said.

Although there are a couple of hot spots that fill up quicker, including the 100 block of North Chestnut Street and the 100 block of East Second Street, Robison said the downtown doesn’t have a parking problem.

He was surprised when the council chose to raise fines out of all the ideas brought forth during a public forum in July.

“I’m concerned this might harm businesses. It might harm residents also who live downtown,” he said.

He suggested the chamber work with Seymour Main Street and the city to come up with a media campaign to promote downtown parking lots and to color code the different lots to make them more easily identified.

Using QR codes is another idea Robison shared that could be used to help direct customers to the nearest parking lots.

“I think there are some creative things we can do to help reframe the perception of parking downtown to show that there is plenty of parking,” he said. “But we need everyone involved because there’s not a one-size-fits-all solution, and to me, that’s what increasing the fines seems like.”

Councilman Matt Wheeler said one of the reasons the retail development committee chose to raise fines was to get more people to use the parking lots to free up parking spaces in front of buildings.

“If you make the fine a little bit more, the public will then learn that the parking lots are a lot easier to use,” he said.

But Robison doesn’t want to see the city take a punitive measure to enforce parking.

Mayor Matt Nicholson agreed, saying his concern was raising the parking fines would make enforcement more of a game of cat and mouse than it already is.

“Does it make it that much more difficult for Trey to do her job because suddenly people are belligerent?” he said of parking enforcement clerk TreyAnn Berry.

Councilman Jerry Hackney said several business owners complained during the July forum about employees parking in front of the buildings and blocking the spaces all day long and the city not doing anything about it.

“If you put a little bit more meat into that parking ticket, I don’t think they are going to do that,” he said.

Other than one, all of the downtown business owners that attended the forum agreed with the city raising the parking fine, Hackney said.

Councilman Bret Cunningham said some of the offenders are habitual.

“If there’s not an issue, we wouldn’t be writing parking tickets,” he said. “The easiest way is to hit their pocketbook.”

Councilman Drew Storey said he was concerned about what the increase could mean for the future.

“Once fines go up, they’re never going to come back down,” he said.

Robison agreed increasing fines would be easy, but he doesn’t think it’s the best thing to do.

“If we try some of these other things and they don’t work, then we raise the fine and I’ll support it then,” he said. “I just don’t think that now is the right timing. I would like to see us try something else first.”

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