The City of Winder plans to implement two-hour parking limits throughout much of the downtown area — a move aimed at attracting more customers to downtown restaurants and businesses and encouraging owners and employees of those businesses to utilize non-two-hour lots and spaces.
Mayor David Maynard said he expects the city council will vote on the new parking plan this month and possibly as soon as next week. The agendas for the Monday, July 6 work session and Tuesday, July 7 voting session had not been set as of press time.
Under the proposed plan, two-hour limits would be imposed along Athens Street from Park Avenue to the spaces across from Smokin’ Po Boys and NAPA Auto Parts; the public lot at the corner of Athens and Broad streets; along Candler Street between Park Avenue and the public lot at West Candler and Woodlawn Avenue; the gazebo parking lot at East Candler and Broad; the handful of spots on Jackson Street between Candler and Athens; the new public lot by the Plaza at Jackson and a handful of publicly-available spaces in the police department/city hall lot.
The two-hour limits along Broad Street, which are not currently being enforced, would be lifted under the plan. The public lots at Candler and Woodlawn and the Winder Community Center on Athens Street, as well as the spaces of Park Avenue and Athens to the east of Park Avenue (closer to Jug Tavern Park), would also not have time limits.
Downtown parking has been an occasional topic during public-comment periods at council meetings for at least the past year, and several business owners in the district have said the lack of limits has taken away some potential customers from them. Some of the complaints have centered around employees of VanKirk Electric’s downtown headquarters occupying many of the prime spaces for lengthy stretches of the day.
Councilman Chris Akins, who has headed up an ad hoc committee to study the parking issue, proposed the new plan to the council at a June 18 work session.
“A lot of these parking places are being taken up by people that either own or operate a business or are going into the businesses to work and not leaving for the rest of the day,” Akins said. “We’ve got to find a way to change that culture and get those people to some of these offline lots and spaces. These people have got to help us with that.”
Winder police chief Jim Fullington said his department would be ready to enforce whatever plan the council adopts but said the changes would require a more specific ordinance laying out the two-hour zones, procedures, and fines and penalties. He also said the city would need to have “proper and professional” striping and signage installed.
Akins said he and other committee members debated the Broad Street spots, but after conversations with business owners along the street, decided it would be better to recommend not having a time limit. Akins said most city residents and others who are familiar with the area would likely gravitate toward parking spaces on other streets anyway, given Broad Street’s congestion during business hours.
While a majority of the council seemed to arrive at a consensus around the new plan at last month’s work session, there were some concerns raised.
Councilman Travis Singley said he favored the plan in general but worried that drawing more people to park on Broad Street without the limits could dissuade some visitors passing through town from stopping and patronizing downtown businesses.
“That is our main thoroughfare, and if every place is full through there, what are they going to do?” Singley asked rhetorically. “Most people who aren’t from here are probably not going to pull down a side street to look for parking. I just don’t want to scare people away to the next city.”
Maynard and other council members noted the city could try the plan as proposed and could always come back and amend it if it doesn’t like the Broad Street results.
“Maybe this is a good first step to try,” Maynard said.
Councilman Jimmy Terrell said the city needs to ensure it has a strong enforcement plan in place.
“This will create some headaches for a few employees, and we’re going to have to end up going to court with some people (over the fines), Terrell said. “When they write the ticket, they’ve got to be sure they’ve got the right information. We just want to make sure we’ve got the right planning for this.”
The council’s Monday and Tuesday meetings are set for 6 p.m. at the Winder Community Center, 113 East Athens St. While the meeting will be held and open to the public in person, the public will also have the option to listen to the meeting via Zoom, either on their phones or computers.