Judicial committee finds consensus on downtown parking ordinance changes

Marianne Gillespie

After waiting months for the issue of downtown parking to be readdressed by the judicial committee, downtown building and business owners had an opportunity to speak on the subject Monday.

Judicial committee chairman Rich Underwood let audience members speak about the subject first.

Attorney Mike Mahoney, who operates his law office in downtown Chillicothe, said he did not have any new information than when he spoke to the Chillicothe City Council at its first meeting in January.

The council abolished the two-hour parking it had on its books, which was not enforced, Sept. 27. Additionally, the council banned overnight parking from 2 a.m. to 5 p.m., but later changed the time from 2 a.m. to 3 a.m. Nov. 8 to accommodate late movies at Town Theatre.

Underwood reminded those in the audience – Mahoney; Wes, Sarah and Eric Williamson; and Jimmy Mattox – how the issue began.

“I question what’s the point of the ordinance,” said Mahoney,

Underwood then explained, “This all started because there was an argument between Happy Thoughts and Blue Flame BBQ about a loading zone. So that’s how this all got started.” Then he said he became aware of the two-hour parking.

Underwood said when he has driven through the downtown area early in the morning, he has not seen any problems. “I have yet to see any businesses impacted by this, at all, period.”

“The only way we could see to make sure to allow at-will loading zones was to have a no-parking time period. That’s why we

thought 2 to 5 in the morning was a great time to not worry about it.”

Mahoney pointed out that in the case of Happy Thought Coffee, which opens at 5 a.m., employees have to be there ahead of time to open the shop.

“It certainly does impact that business. And it certainly impacts everyone who lives downtown. And, I don’t know why that would be a trivial concern to the city.”

He reiterated it should be the burden of the property owners to come to the city with these types of concerns.

Underwood pointed out that when he talked to people downtown some were “dead-set” against overnight parking, but then he later saw some of their names on a petition presented to the city in January against the new ordinance.

Mahoney said once something changes from abstract to real life, some people do change their minds.

“It’s not unreasonable to think that some of those people have changed their minds,” Mahoney said.

Underwood said the ordinance also assists in loading zones.

“One of the reasons we did it is because we had people complaining that residential people were parking in front of their businesses all day long,” said City Attorney Mike Seghetti. “We did intend to prevent them from parking there.”

Mahoney said the downtown was not busy enough to have a problem with that, but Seghetti said more than one person said that.

As a test, Wes Williamson asked how many people had needed a loading zone, and Underwood said he did not know.

“It hasn’t accomplished anything and all it’s done is inconvenienced the entire downtown area,” said Wes Williamson, calling the ordinance a “failure.”

Alderman Mel Witte said he thinks the city should let the ordinance “ride” for a year.

Jimmy Mattox asked who unloads during 3 to 5 a.m., but Underwood said it is not for unloading during that time but for the police to

block off the area.

Mattox also said he had always understood there was not any parking overnight on Second Street. Alderwoman Sandi Levell said she understood that as well.

Underwood said he saw three options for the aldermen: abolish the downtown parking ordinance, change to no overnight parking on Second Street only or change to 3-4 a.m. for no parking.

Sarah Williamson said that even if the aldermen allow parking on Pine Street, which would help her, there are others that would still face problems — people who drink too much and then want to move their cars to avoid a ticket, people who couldn’t get their cars started in the winter or one building owner who only has one parking spot available for two tenants.

She said she thinks if someone’s car is broke down, he or she should call the police and let them know.

Alderman Denny Gould, who also owns a building downtown, said he did not think the ordinance affected his building because of who rents from him, but he expressed his concern.

“We’re making a huge, huge problem on a small thing here with the parking and loading zone parking, I think. We’re making a lot of people upset because we’re limiting something that hasn’t happened yet,” Gould said. But Seghetti said people were parking for days in front of businesses.

Mayor Troy Childers Sr. also said he basically thinks the same thing as Levell about Second Street as no parking only and does not see the side streets as a problem.

The committee members and other aldermen reached a consensus in changing the ordinance to no parking on Second Street only from 3 to 4 a.m. To change the ordinance, the new ordinance must be approved by the Chillicothe City Council at a future meeting.