Concerned downtown business owners and town officials converged in the upstairs open meeting room of West Jefferson Town Hall Monday morning to explore possible solutions to the ongoing parking dilemma.
West Jefferson Mayor Dale Hudler facilitated the open discussion and explained to the merchants that the purpose of the meeting was three fold. The first step, Hudler explained, was to identify the town’s parking problem. It was also the group’s goal to establish a task force of interested parties who could work together and explore possible avenues in freeing up additional parking spaces for merchants and their customers, Hudler explained. The taskforce would also collaborate with the town’s manager and planner in developing a feasible parking plan that could be presented to the town council.
Seven business owners raised their hands to announce their interest in serving on the task force. Local merchants and entrepreneurs Calvin Greene, Joe Stanley, R.T. Morgan, Karen Radcliff, Vivian Miller, Pam Neaves and April Sullivan agreed to serve on the committee. These volunteers will further investigate possible scenarios that could provide better parking conditions for merchants and their customers in the near future.
Prior to adjournment, the group had also hoped to designate a time slot for a future meeting at which time the taskforce would report to the group on possible alternatives to parking issues. The group hopes to reconvene within the next two weeks.
Despite the controversy that has developed over parking issues in the past, Hudler explained that the dilemma could be seen as a blessing in disguise. More people coming to the downtown area means that more customers are coming into the shops of local merchants, he said.
“The problem is great in the sense that we have more people coming in, we just have to find a way to make downtown more accessible for customers,” Hudler said.
Town Manager Greg McGinnis expressed similar sentiments on the parking debate and stated that the town should look at the examples set by other communities in solving conflicts that have risen over parking spaces.
“This is the kind of problem that you want to have,” McGinnis said. “But we don’t have to reinvent the wheel; there are plenty of options out there.”
Police Chief Brian Grogan also attended Monday’s meeting and provided his insight on what is part of the source in the parking controversy. Grogan explained that many business owners would park their personal vehicles at the store fronts of other businesses and shops in hopes of freeing up space for their own store. The problem is, Grogan explained, that business owners are not respecting the spaces available to other merchants.
Like in past group discussions, the prospect of utilizing Backstreet for parking spaces was once again given a breath of life during the meeting. Some of the downtown owners advocated using the Backstreet as a designated parking area for downtown overrun and business owners. The only problem with using the Backstreet for parking is that it could possibly take away spaces for owners on that particular stretch of roadway. Backstreet is also the home of the Farmer’s Market which uses the street for parking on Saturdays.
Using parking spaces at Backstreet Park could also alleviate some of the pressures that parking has put upon the town, officials said.
The strong showing of merchants convening at town hall Monday morning surprised town officials and Hudler elaborated on the importance of the community coming together as one and working toward a common goal.
“This is absolutely beyond what we thought would come out of this,” Hudler said. “But this is what makes our town great, people coming together and putting their voice in.”