Oxford’s Board of Aldermen approved a plan to generate revenue to pay for a new downtown parking garage in Tuesday’s meeting.
After months of consideration, Tom Sharpe, the chairman for the Downtown Parking Advisory Commission, presented three options to the Mayor and Board of Aldermen.
The board went with a plan that allows a total of 250 free spaces, including 131 in the OPC lot; 92 around the parking garage; 14 around the Lafayette County Courthouse building; and 13 behind First National Bank (FNB). Every other space will cost 75 cents per hour, while the parking garage will cost 50 cents per hour. The plan would generate an estimated $1,002,000 in annual revenue.
“The advantage of [this plan] is convenience for the parker,” Sharpe said. “If they come looking for a free space and all those spaces are taken, all they have to do is slip right into the parking garage for the next least expensive space.”
Mayor Robyn Tannehill and the board had requested a plan that would create 250 free downtown parking spaces while still raising enough revenue to pay for the parking garage. After further meetings, the commission members were unable to come to a consensus on a final plan, so they presented three options Tuesday night to the city board.
“If you’ll recall, we were asked to develop a revenue model that includes [250 free] parking spaces,” Sharpe said. “We did that. And I want to offer you three options. With all three of those options, they have free parking under the water tower (in the Oxford Park Commission lot).”
The board passed on a plan that provided 261 free spaces, including 131 in the OPC lot, 103 in the City Hall lot, 14 at the courthouse, and 13 behind FNB. All other lots would charge 75 cents an hour, while the parking garage would cost 50 cents per hour. This plan would generate an estimated $982,000 in annual revenue.
Another option rejected by the board would have provided 158 free spaces, including 131 in the OPC lot, 14 at the Courthouse and 13 behind FNB. Paid lots would cost 75 cents an hour, and the parking garage would cost 25 cents an hour. This plan would generate an estimated $958,000 a year.
Through research, it was determined that over 900 employees work downtown between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. But providing free spaces for all downtown workers is not realistic, Tannehill said. “What it comes down to is we want to stay committed to offering 250 [free] spaces. Are we providing those spaces to folks that we intend to provide those for? Or is it a better option to have less free spaces but cheaper for everyone?”
Developing a parking solution that would meet the needs of everyone who uses the Square has proven tricky. Morgan expressed concern for shoppers looking for free parking, and Sharpe said he projected that all the free spaces would be filled by 10 a.m.
Alderman Janice Antonow said, “I’ll have to fight to go to churches on the Square if there’s not enough free parking for those who are shopping.”
After further discussion, the board voted unanimously for the proposal that generates an estimated $1,002,000 per year. The total recurring annual costs for the garage will come to $830,000 a year.
“We tried to be conservative in every step,” Sharpe said.
In other board news, the proposed ordinance amending the Land Development Code and Zoning Map has officially been added to the City of Oxford’s Vision 2037 plan.
After applause from both the board and the crowd, Tannehill said, “This has been a several-year process. It has involved work from planning staff and several of those that are in the audience and several of those that are up here. Every department in the city has probably had a hand in this at some level.”
City Planner Judy Daniel recognized Robert Barber of Orion Planning Design in Hernando as being the lead consultant behind the Land Development Code.
“We knew when we took the project, we understood that it would be intense,” Barber said. “There were some dramatic advances that Oxford needed to make in its planning model, number one. And number two, there is an immense amount of passion that surrounds this city. It is a significant place. So I want to make sure you know that we really appreciate the opportunity to assist in the planning process. It is a long-term process, as you’ve discovered. You’re to be congratulated. The planning commission and your staff is superb. Thank you very much, and we look forward to greater things in Oxford.”
By Randall Haley, associate editor of HottyToddy.com. She can be reached by emailing email@example.com.