City, business owners weigh in on downtown parking

Downtown Washington Court House business owners say parking on Main Street is an ongoing issue that needs to be addressed, but Washington Court House City Manager Joe Denen said in an interview recently that downtown street parking is not a problem.

“People have a fascination with parking in front of where they want to go,” said Denen. “What I ask people is, the next time they go to a big box store, pay attention to how far you go to get to the front door, and when you go downtown and park see how far you walk. A lot of times it is a perception issue that you can’t park directly in front of where you want to go. Parking in the downtown area, you’re always going to have challenges with that.”

At 131 N. Main Street, Top Dollar Pawn manager Hannah Cox said parking is a problem for customers who come to the store.

“A lot of people who come in here have big stuff to bring in — lawnmowers, air conditioners, and you know how heavy air conditioners are. It’s hard for them to park somewhere down the street and carry it in,” said Cox.

Cox said the parking in front of Top Dollar Pawn on Main Street is full on days when Washington Court House Municipal Court is in session. Most of the parking spaces are marked with signs that say there is a two-hour limit, but Cox said people don’t pay attention to the signs.

“On certain days there’s just nowhere to park,” said Cox. “Everyday it’s busy and usually about mid-afternoon parking starts opening up.”

Cox said Top Dollar employees park in a lot behind the building. She has encouraged customers to park there, too, “but then they have to drag their stuff from around back to get it in here.”

Cox said she has seen some customers circle the block and then drive off without coming into the store.

“Parking probably does somewhat affect business. If they drive up to try to get a pawn loan and they come down Main Street and there’s nowhere to park, they’re going to drive on to the next pawn shop,” said Cox.

Though she sees Main Street parking as a problem, Cox said the solutions aren’t effective.

“I think there should be meters. If anything it should be policed but it’s just not cost-effective for the city to pay someone to do that. I don’t know what the answer to it is,” said Cox.

Denen said the city has not enforced parking downtown for close to a decade now. At one time there were parking meters downtown but the city did away with those and the parking control enforcement officer.

In that time he said he’s had one or two people come to him to talk about downtown parking.

“When we enforced parking in the past, that ticked somebody off at least once a week. If you enforce two-hour parking you aggravate a lot of people. In particular you aggravate ladies getting their hair done and some people who are trying to support downtown. If you don’t enforce it you get, ‘So-and-so parks here all day long.’ We get that sometimes. What we are not going to do is selective enforcement,” said Denen.

In addition to angering some people in the past, Denen said parking enforcement is a cost issue.

“In the past parking enforcement didn’t really seem to impact parking,” said Denen. “If you want to make money, parking tickets are a bad idea. It’s not cost-effective to pay someone to enforce parking.”

At B&B’s Cakes and More, located a few doors down at 149 N. Main Street, owner Becca Krupla said parking is an issue for her customers.

“I have elderly customers who come in here all the time. If they can’t find a parking space they can’t come in because many of them can’t park far away and walk long distances. It hurts business,” said Krupla.

There are about 40 street parking spaces along North Main Street between Court Street and Market Street. Krupla said she has had elderly customers who make orders over the phone and then call her when they can’t find a parking space downtown to ask her to run their order out to them while they idle in the street in front of the store.

“Otherwise they wouldn’t be able to pick up their order,” said Krupla.

Krupla said she has adjusted her bakery’s hours due to the clogged traffic on North Main Street on Mondays, when both courts are in full session.

“There’s no point in being open if customers can’t get to the store,” said Krupla.

Krupla said a solution to the downtown parking is to give the businesses along the street designated parking spaces in front of the stores to be used for the store’s customers only.

“People come in here because they want to support downtown business. If they don’t have parking, they are not going to be able to support businesses downtown,” said Krupla.

The city and county own some parking lots in the downtown area. Denen, Cox, and Krupla agreed that people who use street parking on Main Street for the entirety of the day should be using the lots owned by the city or county.

Denen said the closest parking lot to the courts is a city-owned lot across the street from the jail.

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Street parking is filled Thursday afternoon with customers and people coming to court. People in the area say parking affects businesses. parking is filled Thursday afternoon with customers and people coming to court. People in the area say parking affects businesses.

By Ashley Bunton

Reach Ashley by calling her at (740) 313-0355 or by searching for @ashbunton