In order to free up more parking space around the Covington square for customers of square businesses, the Covington City Council has placed time limits for parking around the square.
The changes to the city’s parking ordinance were approved by the council at their Monday night meeting after listening to advice from the city’s Parking Authority, which includes several merchants with businesses on the square.
After some debate the council agreed to include parking spaces contiguous to the square along with the outer ring of square parking on all streets forming the boundaries of the eight city blocks within one block distance from the city square in the changes to the ordinance, which now specifies that no cars may be parked for more than two hours at a time.
Although parking on the square is not technically without time limits, parking time limits are rarely enforced.
Covington Mayor Kim Carter said the parking ordinance badly needed to be amended because parking fines haven’t been changed since the 1970s and were still only $3.
The city council agreed that it would make no sense to pass higher parking fines if they weren’t going to be enforced by the Covington Police Department to which Covington Police Chief Stacey Cotton responded that his department was willing and ready to enforce any new parking ordinance passed by the council.
The ordinance was originally going to exclude the parking spaces that are contiguous to the square but after vigorous opposition from some members of the Parking Authority the council agreed to include the inner ring square parking in the changes.
Denise Spires, owner of Spires Interiors & Gifts and a member of the Parking Authority, said the whole point of changing the parking ordinance was to avoid a lockdown on parking on the square, especially on prime parking in the inner ring.
"We were trying to safeguard parking for the customers," Spires said, adding that it wasn’t a good idea to penalize shoppers with parking tickets when they were the ones bringing their business to the square while not penalizing "the good old boy network."
Spires said it is the white-collar professionals who have their offices on the square and use the inner ring that are tying up all of the best parking by arriving at 8 a.m. and not leaving until the evening when most of the stores on the square are closing. She suggested requiring the professionals to park a block and a half away and walk to their offices on the square.
Lee Mayfield, co-owner of Mayfield Ace Hardware and a member of the Parking Authority, said the Parking Authority has been struggling with a lack of adequate square parking for some time now.
"If the hotel [and civic center] comes in, what will that do to parking around the square?" Mayfield said. "We want to be pro-active on that before it becomes a problem."
Mayfield acknowledge that the square is becoming more professional than in years past with more offices for law firms opening up.
A fine structure for the parking ordinance will be worked out later by the Parking Authority once the amended ordinance is read for a second time and finalized by the city council in January.
In other news from Monday night's city council meeting:
The Covington City Council placed O’zone Bar and Grill under a six-month probationary period after learning it had been in violation of the city’s alcohol ordinances by opening only two days of the week.
Covington Police officers had reportedly visited the business, located on Old City Pond Road, several times and found the business was not open, according to Covington Cit Manager Steve Horton. The ordinance rules that a restaurant serving alcohol must serve at least one meal a day for five days of the week.
The owner explained to the council that the business had gone through a restructuring and transition period and had been operating on a diminished schedule during that time but would soon be back to a normal business schedule, said Horton.
The council decided to approve the license with a stipulation that the Covington Police Department would periodically check to see that the business was in compliance.
Michelle Kim contributed to this story.