City gets tough on downtown parking

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By Tia Lynn Ivey

managing editor

The Madison City Council unanimously approved the new Downtown Parking ordinance, making three offenses in a calendar year a misdemeanor. The amended ordinance for Town Square Parking now reads, “All persons violating this subsection ‘f’ will be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, may be punished by a fine of $15 for the first three violations in a calendar year, and $30 for any subsequent violations in a calendar year.”

The city council discussed the parking ordinance at their last work session at the end of September. Local law enforcement petitioned the city to toughen downtown parking laws because of habitual violations committed by downtown employees and business owners.

Parking spaces surrounding the Town Square have a two-hour time-limit in order to ensure ample parking for tourists and local shoppers. The previous penalty for parking violators was a $15 fine for each infraction, without any progressive penalty for multiple offenses. According to Madison Police Chief Bill Ashburn, this system did little to deter parking violations in downtown Madison.

““The main problem is the people who work inside the city. It’s the people who have businesses here and they continually violate the parking ordinance…so this is to try and curtail that,” said Ashburn at last month’s work session.

According to city officials, the purpose of the amendment is to dissuade people from violating the ordinance all together, not to boost revenue for the city through increased fines.

““My idea is that this will make it more of a deterrent to people,” said City Manager David Nunn. “Maybe they will be less causal about parking in time-limited spaces all day if the punishment were a little more stiff. This  is not about bringing in more revenue or to be punitive, but to try to get compliance so we can save those spaces for visitors and customers.”

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