By CRISTIN REECE
Palestine’s downtown district just got roomier – for motorists, that is.
The Palestine City Council approved revisions to the downtown parking scheme Monday, upon the recommendation of Public Works Director Tim Perry, which promises to add at least 55 new parking spaces within the downtown area between Houston and Queen streets and Debard to Spring streets – even around city hall and the police department.
“We worked with our downtown merchants and the fire department to try to find a way to improve customer service and ease congestion in certain areas, but still provide the access our emergency vehicles would need,” Perry said. “We’ve changed and revised it about a jillion times in the 26 years I’ve been here. In fact, I was one of the crew that cut out the old parking meters downtown when we did away with them. Hopefully, this will be more accommodating.”
City council members approved the ordinance during Monday’s regular council meeting, after holding a public hearing on the issue. No comments either for or against the changes were received. The additional parking spaces brings the total number of legal downtown parking spaces to 379.
“More parking is always great,” said Laverne Wright, a clerk at the Old Magnolia Sandwich Shop. “It gets pretty crowded around here during lunch. We’re always getting complaints about (how) there’s nowhere to park.”
Dana Mathews, manager of the O’ Sweet Pea boutique, echoed the sentiment.
“It’s fabulous. More is always better – it was awesome the last time they added spaces,” she said. “Even on the weekends, things can get a little tight on parking. And during the holidays, there’s never enough parking by far.”
Mathews said most of the downtown merchants cooperate with one another, too, on how to divvy up parking for staff members of the various businesses.
“We all get along beautifully,” she said. “Everyone pretty much knows what spots are whose and we’re pretty cooperative with one another.”
Cynthia Hernandez and Lucy Sanbrano, Palestine residents and frequent downtown shoppers, also said they applaud the city’s efforts.
“It’s bad – sometimes you have to drive around and around and around just to find a spot,” Hernandez said.
Sanbrano added, “Making it easier to park will definitely get me down here (to shop) more often.”
The changes, which are slated to take place soon despite not being in this year’s budget, would include eliminating several no parking zones to add parallel parking on the south side of downtown; reestablishing certain fire lanes; and omit striping in those spots to maximize the amount of space vehicles could use for parking.
“We felt like the roads were wide enough, and not painting stripes would allow people better use of what space is there whether they’re driving a little, bitty car or a big one,” Perry said.