By Tony Boom
JACKSONVILLE — Seasonal parking restrictions will be reinstated on two streets close to the Britt Festivals grounds, but other streets previously restricted to residence-only parking will remain available to the public.
The City Council unanimously approved the change to parking regulations at its Tuesday session following a public hearing. South Oregon Street and West Fir Street will be posted for permit-parking only from June 1 to Sept. 30.
"It's a very good system," said Jocie Wall, who lives on South Oregon Street. "It really helped to mitigate some of the impact of Britt."
Seasonal parking restrictions were enacted for South Oregon, West Fir, West Pine, South Third, South Fourth and Main streets about 10 years ago. Residents applied for permits that allowed them to park on the streets.
On March 20, the City Council, acting on a recommendation from the Parking Commission, eliminated all seasonal residential parking areas south of California Street, making about 150 spots available for the public. Over the years city officials had received complaints from individuals who received tickets when they parked in the restricted zone.
Provisions in the March change provided permit-parking spots for residents who had no off-street parking.
After the summer tourist season and Britt Festivals events began, neighbors expressed unhappiness over the change. They also felt they hadn't been given an opportunity to express their concerns, and that proper notice had not been given before the change.
"It just changed the quality of life on our streets," said Wall, who is a candidate for City Council in the November election. "It impacted us in ways which we had not been used to."
Several public meetings were held by the Parking Commission with the neighbors. The commission recommended the changes to the City Council.
"(The restrictions) acted as a buffer for the neighborhood and the impact that Britt had on the neighborhood," said Wall. "When the signs were taken down, it really had an adverse effect on the neighborhood.
"We just didn't see the reasoning behind it once we started looking into why they were put in place. We were able to communicate with the city in a positive way and got a win-win situation," said Wall. "We worked as a neighborhood to do that."
City Attorney Kurt Knudsen advised the commission that a public hearing with proper notice should be held before the council and that a resolution and new parking map be adopted.
Only one person spoke during the public hearings, City Administrator Jeff Alvis said.
"Neighbors attended. We all felt that we had been heard," said Wall. "Things were moving in a positive direction. We had several opportunities to share our perspectives."
A Britt official said she hadn't heard any complaints or comments on parking this year.
"It has been quiet as a church," said Donna Briggs, festival executive director.
Seasonal parking signs likely will be reinstalled over the next few weeks, said Alvis.
"We took down all the signs," Alvis said. "We have them all, though."
Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at email@example.com.