At Thursday's City Council workshop and meeting, the council discussed parking changes and an amendment of the obstructions of sidewalks ordinance. At the meeting, an annexation was approved by the council.
There were proposed parking changes in the Uptown district given by Special Event Liason Corey Barrett at the city council workshop. This would increase on-street parking to $1.75 per hour after the first hour being free. Off-street parking would be $1 per hour and the first hour would be free. A flat rate of $15 would be charged for parking uptown after 10 p.m.
There are 637 on-street parking spots and 657 off-street parking spaces for a total of 1294 parking spaces. An Uptown employee parking permit would be created to prevent employees who work Uptown from getting fined for parking in the area.
“This is what we know needs to change parking taskforce needs to change. Some of the changes we noted were parking fines need to increase from a five-dollar fine to a 20 dollar fine with the first citation being a warning. With the current parking fees to park all day is, it is cheaper to receive a five-dollar ticket than pay six dollars to park all day,” Barrett said.
The council motioned to hold two public meetings to inform the public about the potential upcoming changes to get feedback from the public.
Chief of Police Mark Holtzman discussed the proposed amendment of the obstructions of sidewalk ordinance during the workshop. Council members Rick Smiley, Brian Meyerhoeffer and Will Bell motioned for Holtzman to come back with an ordinance.
This ordinance is modeled after an ordinance in Chapel Hill, Holtzman said. In Greenville, there is currently a $50 fine and will increase to a $100 fine. This ordinance is currently a civil citation and will be a Class 3 misdemeanor which could result in an arrest, Holtzman said.
This could result in an arrest if someone is intentionally obstructing a sidewalk and doesn’t move after being dispersed by an officer. The current ordinance doesn’t require the officer to give a warning before issuing a ticket. This would require officers to give a warning before arresting someone, Holtzman said.
“We’re talking about blocking free passage, obstructing a sidewalk, we’re using the term ‘loitering’ a lot but this really is obstructing a sidewalk,” Holtzman said.
City council members Monica Daniels and Rose Glover were opposed to this ordinance as they claimed students of color could be discriminated against by officers.
Glover opposed the proposed amendment because, she said, African-American East Carolina University students have been turned away from clubs and are the students outside downtown. Glover said she was worried officers would charge students with this citation even if they were obstructing the pathway.
“I ran into a police officer I thought was totally out of control. I stopped her, I wasn’t gonna say anything but I stopped her and I said something and I told her who I was and she knew she was wrong as soon as I said that,” Glover said.
At Thursday night's city council meeting, there was high attendance from the opposition of the annexation of 390.0418 acres near the intersection of Mills Road and Hudson’s Crossroads Road. Planner Chantae Gooby gave a presentation on the ordinance during the city council meeting.
The opposition, Lauren White, county commissioner to District 6 and chairman for Voluntary Agricultural District constituents would be affected if the annex was approved.
White said she had spoken with Deputy Chief Ted Sauls of Greenville Police Department who serves the land which would be annexed.
White said she was informed by Deputy Chief Ted Sauls that the normal response time would be lengthened for many reasons including the two-lane highways between the city and parcels which couldn't be passed safely.
“All the calls would be handled by the East zone and if the East zone officers were dispatched to another zone when a call came in then obviously that would add on even more time to the already greatly lengthened response time,” White said.
Smiley said when thinking about annexing the land `they must think about the comprehensive plan. The plan outlines where the city should grow and what the vision of the city is.
Smiley said the comprehensive plan was put together by the citizens. He said it passes the planning and zoning commission.
“I can understand an argument that maybe this is a good idea, I do not understand how anyone can read that plan and come away with the idea that any part of it suggests growing three and a half miles away from the city limits is what that plan calls for,” Smiley said.
Smiley went over a copy of the plan during the presentation pointing out a few key points. He pointed out page 32 of the plan which describes the eight Principles for Growth and Development.
Smiley pointed out the first principle on page 32 states the “development of underutilized land within the city’s existing urban footprint that is served by infrastructure is a priority over undeveloped land on the city’s edge.” Smiley said, “The very first principle we have, which outlines how we’re supposed to be thinking about our growth undermines this proposal.”
The document also discussed supporting a more walkable community, fiscally efficient ways of managing and serving the growth, concepts, and best practices, promoting transit, increased development density, infill development and transit-oriented development.
“My point is that on almost every page of the comprehensive plan there is some statement that we should be developing compact urban density in our city. There’s not a line that plan, and I’ve looked through it three times today, there’s not a line in that plan that says in any way we should be incentivizing development three and a half miles from our border,” Smiley said.
Before deciding on a vote council member Meyerhoeffer called for Holtzman to provide information about providing service to the proposed area.
Holtzman said GPD would respond faster than the Sheriff's office because they are only five miles away from the proposed annexation and the Sherrif covers hundreds of miles in the county.
“It’s accessible, it’s going to take time. It's about five-six miles away by road. So, travel time in a non-emergency is going to be what anybody would take to drive out there, in an emergency situation with lights and sirens we can get there a bit quicker. Are you going to get service as quick as any other city resident? No, but you’ll get service,” Holtzman said.
Smiley moved to deny the ordinance to annex the property but the motion died to deny the annex due to lack of a second. Litchfield motioned to approve the annex and was seconded by Meyerhoeffer. Smiley’s amendment was not supported by the council.
“I would like to amend that we approve the annexation but make a finding that it is not compliant with the comprehensive plan. Go ahead and prove it, just don’t pretend it's supported by the public,” Smiley said.