In the third installment of The Dahlonega Nugget’s Q&A with the Candidates, The Nugget asked those running for city office this November how they would tackle an issue that has been a major headache for the city for years.
With parking being an issue for the city for some time, what would you propose as a solution for Dahlonega’s parking issues?
Dewey Moye, Post 6 challenger
The old Kindergarten building could be demolished and replaced with a parking deck or parking areas that would accommodate a large number of vehicles. I also think that a nice venue could be built in that same area along with the parking area that would accommodate conferences or other events. The venue would also bring additional revenue to the city.
Ron Larson, Post 6 incumbent
We are blessed to have a strong tourism industry and a growing university that creates parking challenges. Years ago, singer Joni Mitchell lamented that "They've paved paradise and put up a parking lot." Well I’m confident we will not allow that to happen. The Downtown Development Authority (DDA) has been asked to review parking and present options to the City Council for review. A huge thank you also need to go out to UNG for their partnership in working with the City to share their parking deck and various lots each weekend. A new shuttle service was also added this past year by a local business owner to assist in getting folks moved around the square to encourage off the square parking. There are dozens of strategies we can use to manage parking and I look forward to working with the DDA in managing this issue.
Tony Owens, Post 4 challenger
Having parking issues is not all bad. It means we have a vibrant active downtown, and many other North Georgia towns wish they had to deal with this problem. To manage our parking, we need to use all the tools in our toolbox, from timed parking to free parking, leased spaces to businesses and some paid parking. Through a partnership with the University, their parking decks are currently available for free parking on the weekends, yet they generally sit empty. Why is this? The old elementary school lot has potential for more parking, but without an attraction or anchor to give people a reason to park there, we will see the same problem that we currently see with the university decks; people are not willing to walk two blocks, up a slope to get from parking to the square. The shuttle around town is a good first step.
Johnny Ariemma, Post 4 challenger
The City paid $20,000 for a parking study that concluded paid parking should NOT be a means to generate revenue. The cost to administer paid parking along with equipment is very expensive. The 2020 budget shows paid parking on Choice Ave and beyond. Why would they do this? Council surely did not follow the $20,000 study. The study recommended using the old kindergarten property along with better signage to direct people to additional parking. It’s public knowledge City Hall is trying to sell this property, which is a huge mistake. My solution is to use the existing cameras tied to an algorithm to see the real issue on parking. If necessary, as a C++ programmer, I recommend a simple 4-stroke, time-stamped kiosk in place without customers needing to pay for parking: a program that’s simple to use and effective for curbing parking abusers. Yes, I have creative solutions.
JoAnne Taylor, Post 5 challenger
Parking has been an issue for some time. If it was easy and affordable, it wouldn't be an ongoing problem.
There are several constituencies which need to be served. Merchants on the square want turnover so that more people can shop and dine easily. Visitors want to park their cars and leave them as they explore our beautiful downtown. Businesses need enough parking for clients and employees.
It's clear that, with limited geography, building upward to serve all these different needs is necessary. The Downtown Development Authority (DDA) has been asked to develop a multi-story parking garage somewhere just off the square. The DDA will then be able to be self-funding as they obtain revenue from parking, a win-win. The costs of building a parking garage are $20,000 to $30,000 per space. We will also be experimenting with high-tech parking meters in a few key spots off the square.