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Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

Celina parking proposal pulled without vote

By William Kincaid
CELINA - No time restrictions will be imposed on downtown parking in the foreseeable future.
The cry from downtown merchants against parking limits was so overwhelming Monday night that council members opted not to vote on prepared legislation and removed it from the agenda.
The ordinance, prompted at the behest of a few merchants, would have reintroduced two-hour parking limits in the downtown. Council members eliminated the law in November because it wasn't being enforced.
The ordinance, if passed, would have imposed fines from $25 to $200. Violations not paid within 72 hours of notice would have been doubled.
The duty of enforcement, Celina Mayor Jeff Hazel pointed out, would have fallen to Celina police. The idea didn't sit well with councilman Eric Claussen.
"I don't think that putting this extra burden on the police department makes sense when we have so many other concerns around this city that they need to have their resources available for," Claussen said.
Council member Jeff Larmore launched a lengthy diatribe against parking limits, describing the longtime pending issue as his own personal "Groundhog Day."
"The people of Celina are loyal to the downtown merchants," he said. "I am going to protect the consumer on this one. I am going to vote no until I go hoarse on any type of an ordinance that's going to restrict downtown parking."
The comment was punctuated with applause from an audience of about 25 people attending the meeting.
Council chambers was filled with downtown merchants, many who, for the first time, publicly voiced opposition to the parking constraints. Their comments undercut the argument long held by Bob Heitkamp of Gamarama and Greg Schweizer of Celina Music Store that city involvement is necessary.
The two men repeatedly have complained that a few business owners and employees continually park in front of their stores, taking spaces away from their customers.
"People come down from lots of different places to patron (sic) my business," Schweizer said. "The problem is, is when I see one storefront that has three employees that are parked on that street every day."
He wishes the employees would park in municipal lots and walk a bit farther to work to ensure parking spaces for customers.
Other merchants said they fear the prospect of scaring away patrons with parking tickets; some pointed out the filled parking spaces are indicative of a thriving downtown - a good problem to have.
Downtown building owner Nancy Otis said the ordinance is a terrible idea and believes a business association should address parking concerns, not tickets.
Tonya Fledderjohann, owner of Upstage Downtown Dance Theatre, 118 S. Main St., said in 12 years she has never heard a complaint about parking from the parents of children who practice and perform in her building.
"We all do what we have to do to get where we want to be downtown," she said. "If my clientele aren't complaining to me, then I don't know why adults are complaining about walking an extra step or two or three."
Vance Nation, co-owner of The Potter House, said the town is looking great with recent upgrades to streets, sidewalks and buildings, and the community - and people from out of the area - are coming out for events.
People may go to the movies before going out to eat and visiting other shops, spending hours in the downtown, he said.
"When you start putting time limits on things .... it's one of those things, you have one bad experience, they're going to tell everybody," he said.
Molly Schleucher, an attorney with an office downtown, said many of her clients are elderly and it often takes a long time to go through estate planing.
"I am not going to ask an elderly lady or gentleman to go out and move their vehicle halfway through an estate planning or deposition," she said.
As a woman, she doesn't always feel comfortable parking in municipal parking lots, Schleucher said.
"I don't park there because it's a safety issue," she said, explaining she's not going to walk into dark alleys or dark parking lots.
Councilman June Scott asked merchants in attendance if they get upset when others park in front of their businesses; most said they do not.
"If it doesn't bother you that somebody's parking in front of your place ... then you know what, solve it yourselves," Scott said. "Just solve it yourselves. Take care of business, get your association to go point a finger at somebody and do that."
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