City council still debating parking issues

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Parking issues continued to drive discussion Feb. 4 at the Sealy City Council meeting.

Two weeks after the council voted to keep center parking on Main Street but to enforce compact cars only in the center spots, the council found itself once again addressing the issue. City Manager Lloyd Merrell has proposed a number of safety and beautification changes for downtown, including the removal of center street parking.

The council, having received petitions with more than 100 signatures from downtown merchants and their customers asking to keep the parking, opted to keep it despite Merrell and several council members calling it unsafe.

Merrell, in his city manager’s report, presented the council with a rendering showing how a concrete curb could be installed in the center, allowing for parallel parking on the north side.

“If there is no interest in the council for that then we’ll just work on re-writing the parking ordinance downtown and start enforcing the compact car parking in the middle,” he said.

The design he presented reduces the number of parking spaces but also widens the lanes of traffic along Main.

In the meantime, defining what a compact car is and establishing a penalty is something that the city attorney said will take some time to prepare plus need two separate readings to pass.

“We need to shore that up a little bit if that’s the way it’s going to stay. You need a definition of compact cars and you need to look at enforcement of that, or another option you might have a sign that says compact cars, not trucks, vans or SUVs,” City Attorney Tim Kirwin said.

Councilmember Chris Noack wanted to know why there wasn’t an agenda item to discuss the ordinance. Kirwin told him there wasn’t enough time with all the other projects he is working on.

“I don’t want to rush something to council that we may have to come back and re-write,” he said.

Noack said it should have been a higher priority.

“I feel like we were looking at a safety issue and that this was an item we would have tried to bump it up on our list,” he said. “I’m not saying it’s your fault. I just thought we really pushed that this is a safety issue and I thought with the vote that was made at the last meeting that it was clear direction that the parking was going to stay, and we need to enforce the ordinance… I specifically asked for a discussion point to be on this agenda.”

Kirwin said it was intentionally placed in the manager’s report so it could be discussed.

Assistant City Manager Warren Escovy interjected to tout the benefits of the proposed changes presented to the council.

“You didn’t really expect to see what you got today, but one of the things that the parallel parking does that the current parking doesn’t do, is it provides for a safe way to come in and parallel park and then to get out and there not be an issue to which direction you’re going. On top of that you put some kind of concrete or stamped concrete to make that ADA accessible,” he said.

Merrell said he likes the design prepared by engineer Tommy Kuykendall.

“I like this version better than what we have but if there’s no interest in doing that, I guarantee … I still consider it a safety issue and I want to start enforcement. … I want to get the ordinance in place. I promise you, we’re going to get on it,” he said.

Councilmember Jennifer Sullivan requested to have staff meet with downtown merchants to show them the drawings and discuss it with them. Merrell said he would take care of it.

Parking continued to be an issue with the council later on in an unrelated matter. The council went into executive session to discuss the expired variance that it had granted the Sealy ISD to allow a gravel parking lot at T.J. Mills Stadium. The city wants it paved, per the agreement when the variance was granted.

When the council came out of the executive session it voted unanimously to authorize the city attorney to send notice of legal violation to the school district for failure to comply with variance parking regulations and for the letter to be made public once it becomes available. It has not yet been made available as of press time. The council scheduled a special meeting for Thursday, Feb. 13, at 5:30 p.m. to discuss the subject in executive session.

The council also voted to give Merrell a 3% raise after his second year. That increases his salary from $121,540 to $125,186.20.

The council also scheduled a priority meeting for Feb. 29 at 9 a.m. The location is to be determined.

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