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Surveyed merchants back limit on parking
Two-hour rule starts Sept. 1 in city’s uptown
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Plenty of parking spaces were available along Church Street in uptown Martinsville on Monday afternoon. (Bulletin photo)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Several merchants in uptown Martinsville say they support the city’s plans to begin enforcing a two-hour limit for parking on the streets.

The limit will be enforced from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, starting Sept. 1. Signs noting the limit will be posted in the coming weeks.

During those hours, police officers will be “breaking out the chalk” to mark tires to ensure vehicles abide by the limit, Police Chief Sean Dunn has said.

Motorists will continue to be able to park in city-owned lots along Church Street next to Bridge and Broad streets as long as they want.

The limit stems from complaints city officials have heard about business owners and employees parking for lengthy periods in nearby spaces along streets, resulting in fewer spaces for customers of theirs and other firms.

Shelia Benson, owner of Shelia’s This & That antique store on Church Street, admitted to parking on the street sometimes.

“I don’t do that anymore,” though, Benson said, adding that she sees other merchants and their employees parking on the street.

“A lot of employees park in front of their businesses,” said Nathaniel W. Carter, who works at Carter’s men’s wear store on Main Street.

“Some of these people park (in the spaces) all day long,” said Harry Stanley, who works at Rucker’s Antique Emporium & Auction House on Church Street.

Joe Martin, who co-owns What’s Your Sign? on Church Street, said at least two merchants have gotten into an argument over one of them parking on the street. Yet merchants said they are reluctant to say anything to those who do because they don’t want to cause problems with their neighbors.

Still, “you want room for your customers to park” close to your store, said Martin’s business partner, Heather Webb.

Especially disabled customers who cannot walk far to get to a store, said Doug Stegall, another Rucker’s employee.

Rhonda Barrett, who works at The Pierced Ear on Church Street, said she hears a lot of complaints from elderly customers about having to walk far.

LaVerta Delp, owner of A Junkin’ Gypsy antique store, said customers do not want to have to move their vehicles frequently, but she supports a time limit on parking to be fair to all businesses’ customers.

Two hours is fine with her, she said, because “you have to start somewhere to see what’s effective.”

“I think two hours is long myself,” Barrett said. She would rather see a limit of one hour, or even 30 minutes, she said.

That is too short of a span for Benson.

“People need time to visit the different shops and get a bite to eat,” she said.

Whatever limit is imposed, “I hope they (police) enforce it,” Barrett added.

Benson said she thinks uptown could use more parking spaces.

Kathy Rucker, who operates Rucker’s antique store, said she would like to see diagonal parking spaces created on uptown streets instead of parallel spaces. “You could get a lot more cars” parked that way, she said.

City officials are considering making the small, one-way portion of Bridge Street between Church and Main streets two-way. Most of the merchants surveyed said they would favor such a change.

At the least, it should keep people from cutting through the Bridge Street parking lot, Webb said.

The central business district has “somewhat of a confusing road structure,” Delp said.

“I wish they would do the whole uptown that way,” Barrett said. Eliminating one-way streets would help stores draw customers because motorists would be able to notice the stores more easily, she predicted.

But “they might have to widen the road a bit” to make Bridge Street two-way, Martin said. “It seems a little bit narrow.”

Due to its narrow width, Benson thinks Bridge Street should be left alone.

As it is now, making the street two-way is “probably going to cause a wreck or two,” she said.

For Carter, there is a bigger issue uptown than the streets and parking spaces along them.

“Our city officials ought to do more to get people to shop downtown,” he said.

At midday Saturday, as he sat at a table outside the store on which some merchandise had been placed to attract the attention of passersby, Carter pointed out many vacant spaces that were available along Main Street.

An occasional vehicle passed by the store. While he was being interviewed, some of the passing motorists honked or waved, but none stopped.

No wonder the merchants are parking on the street — “they have no customers” to fill the spaces, Carter said.

To attract more people uptown on weekends, he presented the idea of merchants banding together to hold a large sale on Friday and Saturday afternoons.

 

 
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