DeKALB – Hour restrictions for on-street parking on Lincoln Highway downtown won’t change anytime soon, though DeKalb city officials pledged this week to better enforce existing three-hour rules.
That’s after downtown merchants asked the city to consider restricting on-street parking along Lincoln Highway between First and Fourth streets to one hour. City Manager Bill Nicklas said he brought the consideration to a council vote this week because a recent downtown merchants meeting he attended highlighted the ongoing issue in the downtown strip.
“There was a lot of concern about the fact that employees of some of our downtown shops have been pulling up at some of the limited parking spaces in those eyebrow areas and staying there all day,” Nicklas said during Monday’s city council meeting.
The parking request was meant to encourage better turnover of on-street parking, city staff wrote in documents.
“My thought is...an hour is just not long enough if you’re really encouraging people to come downtown,” said Ward 2 Alderwoman Barb Larson. “You’re not making it a very welcoming downtown. What the real problem is is to stop employees from parking there. If we’re going to have somebody enforce it at one hour why not just get them down there for the three hour?”
DeKalb police officers who’s responsibility it is to patrol downtown streets for parking violations are “presently committed elsewhere” according to city documents, which acknowledge that more regular enforcement would help address the problem.
Nicklas said he spoke with DeKalb Police Chief David Byrd who said a community resource officer could be assigned to regular traffic patrol to better enforce existing parking regulations.
Three-hour parking also is allowed, as of August 2019, in several downtown public parking lots, including the Embree, Pond and Van Buer parking lots between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.
It’s a sentiment members of the city council shared this week also, after they voted to table any potential changes to parking restrictions.
Ward 6 Alderman Mike Verbic asked whether the city could consider an electric pay station in the downtown area.
A parking feature one might find in metropolitan areas such as Chicago, pay stations are electronic stations set up near on-street parking blocks which allow a person to park their car and then pay a certain amount of money for a specific amount of time. The pay station prints a receipt for the transaction which the person then places on their windshield.
It’s different than in neighboring Sycamore, where downtown on-street parking includes coin-fed parking meters in front of every parking spot.
“We’ve got these handful of prime spots on either side of Lincoln Highway so it could be a pay station type of approach,” Verbic said. “I’ve been to other college communities where they have these pay stations for a very low fee.”
Ward 4 Alderman Greg Perkins asked city staff for more information on a pay station proposal.
“I’d like to see some more data on a pay station type thing,” Perkins said. “There is some revenue potential there.”
Backing the city council’s decision to postpone any changes to Lincoln Highway parking until after a major lane reconfiguration project is complete -- expected before DeKalb Corn Fest this fall, Nicklas said -- Ward 5 Alderman Scott McAdams said he thinks public feedback supports that call.
“There’s some strong support for it in the business community, and very strong opposition to it in the community,” McAdams said. “And maybe postponing it for a few months until we have more information might be the best route to take.”