AUGUSTA — City councilors approved changes to winter parking rules meant to help eliminate confusion about where downtown residents can and can’t park overnight and to help accommodate the recent influx of new residents to downtown.

Downtown parking rules, city officials, residents and building owners said, can be confusing even for those trying to park legally.

Officials hope rule changes to make it easier for downtown residents to park closer to their apartments overnight and during snowstorms, clarification of other regulations and better signs will help eliminate confusion.

Councilors voted Thursday night to amend, as an emergency measure, the city’s winter nighttime parking ban to allow vehicles to remain parked overnight on the east side of Commercial Street.

The change designates the left, or east, side of the northern block of Commercial Street, a one-way street parallel to Water Street between Bridge and Oak streets; and Commercial Street Extension between Water and Bridge streets, as a place where overnight parking will be allowed during the cold-weather months so residents don’t have to park too far away from their apartments at night.

Prior to Thursday’s 6-0 unanimous vote, overnight parking on Commercial Street, as on most city streets, was banned during the winter, though that ban often isn’t enforced unless vehicles are parked where they interfere with snow removal.

Because it was adopted as an emergency measure, the change took effect immediately. The change was proposed as an emergency action because winter weather is already here, City Manager William Bridgeo said.

“It will take effect immediately for the next time it snows,” Mayor David Rollins said. “That said, let’s not hope for the first snowstorm.”

An influx of new residents have come downtown with the development of new housing, including 25 to 30 new upscale apartments in the downtown area of Water Street, according to Bridgeo. Many of those residents have cars, and most of the downtown apartments don’t have their own dedicated parking lots for residents to park in, so they park on the street.

The idea of the change is to move overnight downtown parkers to the east side of Commercial Street so city snowplows can continue to plow to the right, or west side, of the street. Later, city crews will come back to remove the snow left on the east side.

Public Works Director Lesley Jones has said the city would put temporary signs out on the street before the east-side snow is removed, and residents should park in the nearby parking garage during snow removal there.

Officials agreed the change approved Thursday is relatively minor but noted it is part of other plans meant to make it easier for residents to park overnight downtown, including changes to Augusta Parking District regulations and the installation of more and better signs stating parking rules.

Deputy Police Chief Jared Mills said previously there are more than 20 on-street parking spots along the east side of Commercial Street.

Mills told councilors last week the city is preparing to put up signs downtown, and officials want to make sure city parking ordinances and signs on the street are consistent.

As required by the city charter, a redundant, non-emergency version of the parking rules change also will be considered for approval by councilors, probably at their next business meeting.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj


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