No Parking

Some of Clay Center's downtown businesses still don't have parking in front of their businesses even with the city re-striping parking spaces at a less severe angle.

The Printery, The Mane Effect, The Rex Theater and Ohlde's Barbershop are among businesses without parking in front, others including Wall's True Value and Fifth Avenue Parts, have lost parking spaces. One of those, The Printery had been changed this week and parking spots will be put back in.

City Hall and the Clay County Information Center have been affected too -- City Hall has lost spots and the information center has only a handicapped parking spot in front of it.

"It's frustrating," Wall's True Value owner Todd Slagle said.

Businesses have lost spaces because of setback requirements from intersections, alleyways and crosswalks, most of them because of an alleyway.

"The city should be willing to help businesses," said Scott Trautwein, owner of The Printery. "It really handicaps a business when you don't have parking out front."

"Parking is tough any way," said Randy Rundle, owner of Fifth Avenue Parts. And parking will be tougher for the two businesses when the hair salon opens next door.

Setbacks from crosswalks and fire hydrants, not just alleyways and driveway, have sucked up parking spots in front of the Rex and Wall's True Value.

"I realize they have their guidelines and requirements, but what they're doing is they're going to run me out of the downtown," Slagle said. "Relocation is a very real possibility, something I'm really looking at."

Slagle said at first City Administrator Cheryl Beatty told him he would have three parking spots with the re-striping, then came back and said he would have two. The store had three to start with.

Beatty told the Dispatch Wall's True Value is in a "difficult situation," with a crosswalk and a fire hydrant and an alley that has vehicles entering and exiting it. The city isn't going to move the fire hydrant, but it could eliminate the crosswalk. That would take action by the City Council, because the council last directed that the crosswalk stay, Beatty said.

Slagle said he hasn't noticed a big difference in sales, but he also hasn't seen a big increase either.

"The bottom line is I'm going to have to figure out how to get customers in here because two parking spots aren't going to do it," Slagle said. "Several people have said they have driven around the block two or three times and couldn't find a parking spot, or gone out to Gibson's because they couldn't find a spot. Obviously, that hurts."

Trautwein said customers had asked whether they are closed or part of a crime scene because of the cones and tape city workers have put up in addition to yellow stripes. People are parking more than a block away because of the shortage of parking, he said.

"I've got customers coming in asking what happened," he said.

The Printery lost parking because it has a private alley on one side and a driveway on the other side that Trautwein uses to deliver and load paper and printing supplies. Before the city began re-striping, the business had four spots. This setup has existed for more than three decades and the business has never had trouble with people parking in the way or too close to either driveway or alley, he said.

"I've been here since 1973 and we've never had any problems," Trautwein said.

Beatty said the city will be able to put parking back in front of The Printery by putting a "laid-down curb" or bump in The Printery's private drive. With this change, the two businesses should get back the four parking spots they lost, Rundle said.

The city has made other compromises--an optometrist gave up an old alley entry in order to have a handicapped parking spot, and the city had considered "fudging" on the distance from private driveways in exchange for spaces, Beatty said. But doing that didn't give enough space to put parking spots back in, she said.

Trautwein said he and Rundle considered closing the private alley between them to open up parking spots. But both businesses use the alleyway and closing it would have an impact on their fire insurance.

Closing the alley next to Wall's True Value isn't an option either because not all businesses who use it want to close off access, although Slagle said he was "all for it."

While applying for an exception to the code is an option for some of the setbacks, the city has not had to grant exceptions because Beatty said she has reached other compromises.

But some lost parking spots the city just can't do anything about, Beatty said.

"Certain ones, like the fire hydrants or the crosswalks, those are the ones we have to have," Beatty said. "There are certain safety standards we shouldn't back away from -- sight distances for crosswalks, the fire hydrants needs space for the fire trucks to get to them."

The city is following state and federal street codes last revised in 2003 with the new markings. That includes 15 feet from fire hydrants, 20 feet from crosswalks at intersections, 20 feet from the driveway of a fire station, and 10 feet from private driveways and alley entries.

Following the codes protects the city from any future, liability, such as should someone be hit in a crosswalk, Beatty said.

"The city doesn't have much of a choice," Beatty said. "The analogy I give is that it's just like any other renovation. When you remodel over a certain percentage of your home, you have to bring it up to code, so it's structurally safe ... well it's no different for the city. Any time you do a major change from what you had, it's time to update it to meet the code."

They city should also be an example for everyone else, she said.

"If we didn't bring it to code, we're not being much a leader," she said. "We have to be a leader in that and sometime that's painful."

Other businesses are pleased with the city's efforts to re-stripe parking stalls in their areas. Union State Bank has gained a few spots back and vice president Keith Blake said he is "very much pleased" with the "much improved" results.

"When you add (the spots) all up, it's really helps," Blake said. "It's too bad we had to go through all this to get to this point, but the city has been very positive to work with."