Williamsburg City Council approved an adjustment to the city’s parking violation fee schedule at its Oct. 11 meeting in an effort to curb long-term parking in lots intended for short stays in the city’s downtown.
The fee increase is part of the first phase of a larger downtown parking overhaul, according to Interim City Manager Andrew Trivette. The implementation strategy was informed by the findings of a study carried out by Walker Parking Consultants, an Illinois-based firm the city contracted to find ways to modernize the city’s parking regulations in 2016.
The consulting firm suggested a complete overhaul and modernization of the current system.
The new fee increase applies city-wide, Trivette said, and is expected to go into effect on Oct. 21.
Under the current plan, the city charges a $10 fine for the first time a driver overstays the allotted time, $30 for the second time and then $50 and $100 for third and fourth violations in a calendar year. If a parking violator doesn’t pay within 14 days of the ticket being issued, the charges increase by $20.
Under the new system, the penalty for the first parking violation will stay at $10, the second will increase to $35, and the third and fourth violations will stay at $50 and $100, respectively. The biggest change comes in the form of a new $300 charge for drivers who incur five or more parking violations within a calendar year.
“The purpose is to escalate quickly after one or two violations and curb the behavior so that it makes more sense to either get a parking permit from the city, or from wherever you’re currently avoiding getting a parking permit,” Trivette said.
According to Trivette’s presentation, the Williamsburg Police Department issued 3,447 tickets between 2016 and 2017. While more than 2,000 of those tickets went to drivers committing their first offense, 115 committed five or more parking violations.
Council agreed that those repeat offenders often can be found overstaying their time in short-stay parking lots in the city’s downtown.
“What we really want to avoid are people taking advantage of short-term spaces for long-term parking,” said Mayor Paul Freiling. “We want to get those uses off the table and keep those spots available for the people who are shopping and dining and spending that revenue in the downtown area.”
Vice-Mayor Doug Pons said, “There are cars that stay too long because they think they can get away with it. Increasing the fines will be at the detriment of the folks who just park there and take advantage of it, and then impede other folks from parking.”
As part of this first phase of implementation, the city also will roll out a program called NuPark. Starting in November, the system will allow parking enforcement officers to use license plate readers to instantly track how long a car has been parked in the same spot.
“The real advantage to the NuPark system is that we’re going to have far more data than we’ve ever had before in terms of how quickly we’re able to collect it because we’re using license plate scanners,” Trivette said.
Trivette said that the police department also increased its staffing over the last 10 months in preparation for this parking overhaul, going from one part-time parking enforcement official to four. The city allocated $260,000 toward parking study implementation in its Capital Improvements Projects fund, and has spent a total of $131,568 so far.
Precarious Beer arcade
Council also approved rezoning and special-use permit requests from Precarious Beer Project representatives to allow about 10 arcade machines in the planned Merchants Square microbrewery.
Precarious Beer will be located in the Henry Street Shops on the corner of Francis and South Henry streets, which falls under the city’s B-1 downtown business district. That zoning district allows restaurants by right and micro-breweries with a special use permit, but does not mention amusement arcades. Council’s approval allows arcades in the B-1 district with a special use permit, and grants Precarious Beer that permit.
“We are not interested in running what you would consider a true arcade,” said brewery co-owner Andrew Voss. “This is merely an element of entertainment within our space, it’s a guest retention tool.”
Precarious Beer is expected to open in summer 2019.
Other items of note
City Council unanimously approved the formation of the Eastern Virginia Regional Industrial Facility Authority, a regional economic development partnership with other area localities including James City, York, Poquoson, Newport News, Gloucester and Hampton.
Each locality’s governing body also will have to approve similar requests later this month before the body officially can be formed, said city Economic Development Director Michele Mixner DeWitt.
“Once everyone approves it, then the authority can be formed and it allows us a framework under the state code to do cost and revenue sharing for future projects, so now if future regional projects come forward, the localities in the RIFA can participate in those projects financially and then share the revenue,” DeWitt said. “It’s a big step, it’s the first RIFA on the eastern part of the state.”
Council also approved the release of $55,000 in downtown vibrancy funds to the city’s Economic Development Authority.
As discussed in Monday’s Council work session, the body agreed to grant the EDA $50,000 toward the formation of a grant program to enhance existing downtown events and fund the formation of new events.$5,000 were also granted for the purchase and installation of new holiday banners and garlands in the city’s downtown.
The EDA is expected to return before Council at its November meeting with a revised funding request for the remaining $95,000 in the city’s downtown vibrancy implementation fund.
Arriaza can be reached at 757-790-9313 or on Twitter @rodrigoarriaza0.