When vehicles sit in prime parking spots — hour after hour, generally unattended — it hurts local business.
That’s the stance taken by the Enumclaw Chamber of Commerce and the impetus behind a suggestion that some autos be allowed to sit longer while others are ticketed. The goal is to keep downtown customers happy and, in turn, supporting local businesses.
Parking difficulties are nothing new to Enumclaw, where a pair of large city-owned lots are often spurned by those seeking to park a bit closer to their destination. It wasn’t too many years ago that the police department would mark tires, return a few hours later to ticket those in violation of the rules.
In most areas of downtown, there’s a two-hour time limit that is largely ignored.
Responding to complaints from members, Chamber of Commerce leadership initiated a May 16 summit meeting attended by downtown business owners, a representative from the Enumclaw Police Department and Mayor Liz Reynolds. That evolved into a discussion during the June 26 meeting of the City Council, which prompted further study by a Council committee.
In a letter to city officials from the Chamber of Commerce, it was acknowledged that valued parking spaces are often claimed by downtown business owners, their employees and downtown residents. When parking is inconvenient for shoppers and downtown visitors, “it directly impacts the economics of the businesses and the city,” the letter said.
Noting that parking has been a problem in the downtown core for decades, the chamber has asked for three changes:
• first, that curbside parking be increased from two hours to three hours on Cole Street, Railroad Street, Myrtle Avenue and Initial Avenue. This would allow a more reasonable amount of time for visitors to dine and shop, the chamber believes.
• second, that the police department start enforcing the parking rules in the downtown core.
• and, finally, that violators be hit harder in the pocketbook. The chamber suggests that parking fines be increased from $20 to $40 per ticket. As something of a compromise, it has been suggested the fine remain at $20 if paid within 24 hours.
The June 26 discussion was kicked off by Councilwoman Juanita Carstens, who brought the rest of the council up to speed on the city’s decades-long parking drama. The issue has been brought forward several times, she said, with no action taken. Now, with the city actively encouraging tourism, the situation needs to be addressed, she said. Business owners in the downtown core are frustrated that shoppers, diners and other visitors cannot find reasonable parking, Carstens concluded.
A key question was whether the Enumclaw Police Department can handle parking enforcement, no matter what limitations are set.
Chief Jim Zoll acknowledged his department has no one dedicated to parking enforcement and that any effort to watch for parking violations would come at the expense of ongoing police duties.
“I can’t guarantee it would be enforced,” Zoll said. “I can’t say we’re going to be there doing it on a daily basis.”
But, Zoll told the council, his department has the ability to take on parking when time and staffing allows. With that, he reminded everyone that parking has been tackled three times under his watch and, in each instance, the momentum died after a couple of weeks.
A second issue raised was the cost of replacing downtown signs noting the two-hour limit. Replacing those with a three-hour version would cost about $35 per sign, the council was told, and about 20 signs would need to be replaced.
The council agreed to send the parking issue to a committee for further review. For anything to be done, the matter would have to return to the full council for approval.