A $50 fine for the most egregious of downtown parking violators is likely to stay on the books, despite concerns from several downtown employees.
A majority of city commissioners at their meeting Tuesday said they were fine sending an expensive message to motorists who frequently disobey downtown parking regulations.
“We don’t have a parking problem. We have a behavior problem here,” said Commissioner Rob Chestnut, who pointed to a new city report that found the 85 people who had received the new $50 fine had received 6,657 parking tickets in the last two years.
Commissioners did not take a vote on the issue Tuesday, but three of the five commissioners said they wanted to keep the habitual parking violator ordinance on the books. They withheld final action to give staff members time to make a modification that would make it easier for individuals to be removed from the habitual parking violator list.
Currently the ordinance requires a person be given one of the $50 tickets any time they receive more than five parking tickets during a 30-day period. The time period is a rolling 30 days, which means one new ticket often can trigger another $50 ticket. Commissioners now are suggesting that people who pay all five of their tickets would have the 30-day time period reset, making it so they would not receive another $50 ticket unless they received five new tickets during a separate 30-day period.
Mayor Mike Amyx and Commissioner Aron Cromwell both said they wanted to consider other changes to relax the $50 provision. But other commissioners said they wanted to keep the pressure on motorists who frequently violate parking law.
A representative for Downtown Lawrence Inc. also urged commissioners to keep the $50 provision.
“It is not fair that a small group of people are making it difficult for everybody else,” said Commissioner Mike Dever.
City commissioners previously had received a petition from about 700 downtown employees who said the $50 fine was unfair.
Commissioners addressed several other downtown-related issues at their Tuesday evening meeting. They:
• Agreed to add four 15-minute parking meters to each block of Massachusetts Street between Sixth and 11th streets. Merchants had asked for the meters so customers could have a quick in-and-out parking spot. The new meters — two on each side of the block — will be painted yellow to alert motorists that they are different than the standard two-hour meters. Commissioners approved the new meters — which will be in place in the next couple of months — on a 4-1 vote. Amyx was opposed.
• Approved an ordinance that will allow street vendors to operate until 2:30 a.m. in downtown. Currently the ordinance requires street vendors to close by 9 p.m. The change came at the request of two Kansas University students who want to operate a late-night food stand.
The pair previously sought approval to locate the stand at the corner of Sixth and New Hampshire streets. A representative of The World Company — which operates the Journal-World and Sunflower Broadband — said the company had several concerns about the location. The pair said upon further review they were more interested in locating the stand at 10th and Massachusetts streets.
Once the ordinance becomes official, the pair — Jason Mandel and Justin Sharkan — will have to apply for the license through the city clerk’s office. They hope to have the stand operational by the end of the school year, but said it likely will not operate during the summer.
• Deferred a request from Louise’s Downtown to add a sidewalk seating area.