Thursday, July 14, 2005

On N. Memphis, business owners want more parking

Staff Writer

Two North Memphis Street business owners say their customers have been inconvenienced due to the diminished number of parking spots following widening of the street. They asked if landscape strips could be removed to put parking spots back like they were.

Lincoln Freeman, owner of a N. Memphis Street flower shop, said his customers do not want to have to park on or off the square. Jansen Pegues, owner of Pegues Barber Shop, said fewer parking slots have made it difficult for his customers to find easy parking, also.

The two men voiced their concerns at the Tuesday, June 5, board of aldermen meeting in Holly Springs.

“Y’all eliminated parking,” Pegues said.

He said the grass in the landscaping strips is not kept up and the public keeps it walked down.

“The grass could have been eliminated and it would be more feasible (to use it for parking) than leaving the strip bare,” Pegues said. “People stand there. I want to know how soon will overflow parking be available.”

He said available parking at his shop dropped from eight or nine slots to four.

Holly Springs Mayor Andre’ DeBerry said the public has to get used to the loss of parking availability directly in front of N. Memphis Street businesses, get used to the new parallel parking on North Memphis, and park further away and walk as a result of the redesign of N. Memphis Street.

He said the City hopes to develop more off-street parking space for businesses on the west side of North Memphis and along North Center Street. The parking lot east of the Courthouse and the City’s parking lot beside Lafever’s Service Station is usually not full, he said.

“We have to get people conditioned to not park right in front of every business they go to,” he said, adding that most cities, such as Oxford, provide parking off the square and the public walks to downtown. He added that parking is open and free in Holly Springs rather than metered.

Alderman Tim Liddy agreed with the mayor.

“Your clientele have to change their habits,” he said.

DeBerry added that most of Pegues’ customers come after 5.

“So, the downtown area is nearly empty and to yourselves,” he said.

Pegues pointed out that funeral home visitation was also affected recently. All parking spaces were filled and customers had to park at the courthouse and walk.

DeBerry said on a visit to Memphis customers have to park somewhere else and walk back down the street.

“Any city you go to, you have to,” he said.

Freeman asked if a feasibility study had been done before N. Memphis Street’s new design was approved.

“I explained we would sit down with businesses and discuss parking,” DeBerry said.

Pegues restated his argument about the landscape strip.

“How important is it right by the street - two feet of grass?” he said. “We could take it out and use it for parking. People are tromping on the grass. How impossible is it to cut the curb out?”

“How probable? Not very likely,” said DeBerry. “But it is possible to develop some parking further from your business.”

Freeman applauded the improvements in N. Memphis Street.

“That’s great. Memphis Street looks great,” he said. “That’s fine but at the same time I want something done.”

“Please answer to me how has this crippled your business?” DeBerry asked.

“On the outside looking in, you say it looks good. People are parking around the corner,” said Pegues.

“But I don’t conform to the question that we can’t have green space because people walk on the grass,” said the mayor. “We had to eliminate parking in that area because of the traffic light.”

Pegues said people are having difficulty with parallel parking.

“Keep in mind it is not the function of government to create opportunity for business,” said DeBerry. “We could have gone down the street with no parking, but we didn’t. We worked out options.”

Pegues brought up another concern.

“My next thing is my sign was taken down from in front of my barber shop and left in the alley. What do I need to do?” said Pegues.

Don Hollingsworth with HSUD said it is up to Pegues to put the sign back up - that it was on the public right-of-way for years.

DeBerry advised Pegues to go to the planning commission to address the sign matter.

“But it was at my expense,” Pegues said.

“We took it down carefully so the contractor did not bulldoze it,” said DeBerry.

Pegues argued that the planning commission has changed the rules since his sign was put up years ago and was allowed to stay because of “grandfather”clauses in the new ordinances.

“The City takes my sign down and now I’ve got to do something different,” he said.

DeBerry said the old sign would not be grandfathered in because Pegues’ business is located in a historic preservation district.

Hollingsworth spoke on the current ordinances and addressed the parking.

“We (the planning commission) would have a problem with this,” he said. “You’ve had a parking problem down there since the 1970s,” he said. New parking eliminated about one out of every three parking spaces. MDOT (Mississippi Department of Transportation) wanted to eliminate parking altogether.”

“Go to Memphis or to Oxford and you park down the street and walk back up,” DeBerry said again.

Liddy weighed in on the issue of parking.

“When you go to Wal-Mart you see people who will walk across the parking lot in the rain and never blink an eye, but when parking around the square they want to park right in front of the business,” he said.

DeBerry promised to get together with Freeman, Pegues and other business owners on N. Memphis Street to discuss the parking situation and solutions.

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