OLYMPIA - The Olympia City Council voted 4-3 Tuesday night to defeat a plan to start charging $1 an hour at 49 new parking pay stations downtown June 1.
Most council members expressed reservations or downright opposition to the meters, which cost about $650,000. It’s a reversal of a decision by a previous incarnation of the City Council that approved putting the meters in the city core, in spots that currently allow for up to 90 minutes of free parking.
The issue now goes back to the council’s general government committee, which will discuss the fate of the meters.
Voting against pay parking were Jeannine Roe, Rhenda Strub, Craig Ottavelli and Karen Rogers. Voting in favor were Mayor Doug Mah and members Stephen Buxbaum and Steve Langer, who was appointed to the council Tuesday night.
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Strub suggested the meters still can be put to some use without losing free parking downtown. She said she has opposed eliminating free parking from the beginning.
“I would like to have this item sent to general government for further discussion,” she said.
Roe said she felt pay parking would be a deterrent for people to come downtown. Ottavelli, who serves as the chairman of the general government committee, said that the economic downturn is the wrong time to start charging people to park.
Rogers added, “The community has just huge pushback on this one.”
But Buxbaum, who said he was initially wary of the pay proposal, said he supports it after consulting with businesspeople. He noted that the city has been telling businesses about the pay system, and to change course at this point would be “continuing to jerk the businesspeople back and forth.”
Mah advocated for pay parking because “there is a cost to managing our parking system.” He continued, “We have made a very significant investment in a plan that has been vetted and re-vetted,” and that the council needed to make a decision.
Langer said he prefers free, 90-minute parking but understands the reason for pay parking. “I guess I’m concerned that we’re this far down the road, and we’re still very much without a conclusion here,” he said.
City Manager Steve Hall asked that council members approve the pay parking with one vote Tuesday, instead of the usual two, so the stations could begin charging June 1. Because the council is not meeting next week, the earliest opportunity for the meters to be turned on would be June 14 if there were two votes.
Now it’s unclear when – or if – the meters will start charging.
In other business, the council voted 6-1 to pass a resolution authorizing the city to acquire the Diamond Parking Lot at 415 Fourth Ave. E. that contains an artesian well, by eminent domain if necessary.
Councilwoman Karen Rogers said she would vote against the motion because she has concerns about the environmental condition of the lot. The city has been negotiating with Diamond Parking Services of Seattle to buy the 82-space lot. Last week, both sides said the talks were going well. The city wants to use the lot for parking for its new City Hall.
Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869 firstname.lastname@example.org