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Archive for Thursday, May 2, 1996

COUNTY LEAVES R.I. LOTS ALONE

May 2, 1996

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The Douglas County Commission didn't vote on whether to allow paved lots at 11th and Rhode Island so it could revive the option if parking woes intensified.

East Lawrence residents have staved off a proposal to turn four residential lots in the 1100 block of Rhode Island Street into a parking lot.

Despite entreaties from attorneys and Douglas County District Court officials to provide more parking for jurors and others who have business in the Judicial & Law Enforcement Center, county commissioners declined Wednesday to vote on the proposal. County officials estimated that as many as 50 spaces would have been provided on the four lots.

``I think if those lots had been paved and taken care of when we first got them, we wouldn't be having this problem now,'' said Commission Chairman Louie McElhaney, who would have cast the swing vote.

In the past, McElhaney has favored putting parking spaces on those lots, which the county acquired during the 1980s. Three of the lots are vacant while an unoccupied house is still standing at 1124 R.I.

However, McElhaney said Wednesday that he wanted to see how the opening of the new county jail east of Lawrence in 1999 would affect parking and whether the city's current studies of the downtown parking shortage led to any solutions.

``I don't feel comfortable at this time putting those four lots into a parking spot,'' McElhaney said.

He didn't want the proposal called for a vote because he wanted the commission to have the option of reviving it if the parking shortage intensifies.

During discussion, Commissioner Mark Buhler sided with East Lawrence residents, who said they would view a parking lot as an intrusion into the neighborhood and objected to the loss of residentially zoned ground.

``I've got some strong feelings about the east side of Rhode Island,'' Buhler said. ``I'm not against more parking. I just don't want it there.''

Commissioner Jim Chappell, who had offered the parking lot proposal, said he didn't believe the opening of the new jail would reduce the demand for parking.

``I assume that most of the people who are in the jail are not driving cars,'' he said.

Chappell also said that at least one of the lots was donated to the county for the purpose of creating parking space and that a new parking lot would take cars off of residential streets, which now are congested.

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