Spotting trouble

The ordinance on the books allows downtown parking for two hours free each day, not two hours each spot. New technology will enforce that ordinance more effectively. (Photo by Robert Herrington)

The ordinance on the books allows downtown parking for two hours free each day, not two hours each spot. New technology will enforce that ordinance more effectively. (Photo by Robert Herrington)

Noblesville police to use new technology to handle downtown parking situation

Downtown Noblesville offers free parking on the weekend, but from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday it is just two hours – if you can find a spot. Now rumors of a new parking ordinance have merchants concerned how it will affect their business.

“Absolutely nothing has changed in the parking ordinance in the City of Noblesville,” Noblesville Police Chief Kevin Jowitt said. “The ordinance is just two hours per day, not two hours per spot. It has always been like that … All we are doing is enforcing provisions that have existed for years.”

Jowitt said the ordinance tries to enforce turnover, which should help businesses.

“We want to make more open spaces available in the areas designated as two-hour parking,” he said. “People can’t move their car every two hours. It increases the availability for stores and attracts people coming into downtown to use their services like dining or shopping.”

Jowitt said the department finds that the primary offenders are employees working downtown.

“They are moving spots every two hours and take up spots for eight hours,” he said. “It prevents shopping since there are fewer spots for potential customers.

An efficient enforcement

One way the police department is prepared to increase enforcement is through a smart car equipped with license plate recognition technology. Lt. Shannon Trump said LPR is more accurate because the current system of chalking tires depends on routine and memory.

“It’s an efficient, economical, accurate way of enforcement,” she said. “We are fully getting over to being completely electronic (including ticketing).”

Jowitt said the smart car is safer to the officer doing the parking enforcement because they do not have to reach out or leave the vehicle unless writing a ticket. He said the camera system scans the license plates and can tell how long they have been in the same location electronically. Jowitt said the vehicle will cost in a year the same amount of money that the current enforcement scooter costs for a month because of the maintenance and gasoline use.

“Nobody’s using them (scooters) anymore and the places that make the parts are going out of business,” he said.

How parking affects businesses

Peggy Clark, who owns The Wild Bookstore at 884 Logan St., said she has looked into purchasing a permit for the lot behind her store but isn’t sold that the tag will be worth the cash.

“If the lot is full my parking tag is no good,” she said. “My dilemma is the guy who lives upstairs pays $30 a year. Why do I have to pay $350?,” she said. “I pay rent, he pays rent.”

Since purchasing The Wild in March, Clark said she has accumulated 10 parking tickets.

“It’s my own fault. I’ll just forget,” she said. “There has to be a better way than moving cars every two hours or running out to the meter.”

Clark said she parks in metered spots north of her store on Clinton Street.

“I refrain from parking out front. It’s a no-brainer. You leave the good spots for your customers,” she said. “As a business owner they could do something for us. It’s a pain to round up quarters every day of your life though.”

Downtown businesses hearing about the parking situation is not an uncommon occurrence.

“We have a lot of our customers that don’t like it,” said Kim Wuethrich, an employee at the Noblesville Antique Mall at 20 N. Ninth St.

“We have five customers a day that complain,” fellow downtown employee Susie Smalley said.

Wuethrich said the parking limit causes shoppers to spend less time looking at merchandise and more time checking their watches.

“I understand why it’s done that way so people aren’t parking here for an eight-hour work day,” she said, “but two hours a day, I think, prevents our customers from shopping on the square.”

Smalley agrees, “People come eat here and go shopping. If it takes one hour to eat they can’t get around to all the stores in an hour.”

Wuethrich said she directs customers to metered parking spots, but even those are not guaranteed as safe.

“(Dec. 8) was my birthday and I got a ticket,” she said. “It’s hard for elderly customers to park and walk very far. We want them to save the energy for the store – going up and down the stairs. They have physical needs. Even for them to walk a block and a half is a long way to walk.”

Wuethrich said when the weather is nice she parks along the streets for free two blocks away from downtown.

“In the wintertime it’s not quite as appealing,” she said.

Solutions to parking

Smalley said one suggestion she has is to make parking three hours instead of two.

“Nobody wants a parking garage on the square. Maybe a block off if a lot of trees blocked its view,” she said. “I don’t think people are opposed to paying.”

“I would change it from two hours a day to two hours a parking spot,” Wuethrich said.

Jowitt said there are conversations about changing time limits or creating metered spots around the square.

“There are such a variety of different uses for people parking downtown. We’ll enforce whatever the council enacts,” he said. “In my personal opinion, (two hours) certainly meets the needs across the broad spectrum,”

Trump said the metered parking lots are $2 a day and the department offers tags in permitted lots.

“There are a very small number per year for lots that are nearby (downtown),” she said, adding that permits range from $200 to $300 per year. “It’s a pretty good compromise to address the needs of individuals and businesses.”

Downtown Parking Map

By the numbers

2013 Parking Tickets

2,646 – Overtime

18 – Handicapped

134 – Parking where prohibited

12 – No parking zone

88 – Improper parking to curb

43 – Not parked between lines

15 – Too close to fire hydrant

6 – Blocking alley or driveway

27 – Backed into angled space

838 – Parking meter violation

3 – On sidewalk or over curb

7 – Other violation

Source: Noblesville Police Dept.

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