City seeks legislators’ update for Durham’s parking regulations

jwise@newsobserver.comMay 19, 2014 

— City Council members have one thing they want legislators to do during the General Assembly’s current short session. They have more things they want legislators not to do.

Preparing for a Friday-morning meeting with Durham County’s legislative delegation, a council committee agreed it wants legislation to allow the city to accept bills, credit cards and “electronic means” in payment for on-street parking.

Among legislative proposals the city wants defeated are caps on privilege-license fees and property-tax revenues, and restrictions on local tree ordinances.

Durham needs the parking-payment changed because the city’s current regulation only allows payment with coins put into parking meters, said Karmisha Wallace, senior assistant to the city manager and a city liaison to the General Assembly.

“We recognize that now in 2014 there are other ways,” Wallace said.

The change would allow the city to proceed with imposing proposed fees for using now-free on-street parking downtown and in the Ninth Street area, and installing electronic collection boxes similar to those in use in downtown Raleigh.

Wallace said the city transportation department is not ready to start charging to park right away, “but it would help to have the authority.”

The city also wants its parking rules revised to allow it to use parking revenue for “operating the parking program or providing parking facilities.” Currently, parking revenue is restricted to paying for enforcement.

In opposing the fee and revenue caps, Durham is joining other cities and the N.C. League of Municipalities to protect a source of income. Capping businesses’ license fees at $100, as proposed, would cost Durham more than $2 million annually, Wallace said. Other legislation being considered would restrict cities’ ability to make up the loss, by putting a cap on property-tax increases.

Durham and the League also dislike a draft bill ( bit.ly/1jhCdWo) that eliminates local authority to protect trees on private property, including historic and “heritage” specimens, trees in public rights-of-way and trees at construction sites.

“I just find this whole exercise appalling,” said Councilman Eugene Brown. “Here’s a (General Assembly) that primarily got elected on an anti-government platform and look at what they’re doing ...

“The state coming in, using its authority, telling us we can’t have a tree ordinance?” he said. “They have so much they should be doing over there, why in the hell are they screwing us? It’s pathetic, that’s what it is.”

Councilman Steve Schewel said, “Could you make yourself more clear?”

Wise: 919-641-5895

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