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LIGHTNING EDITORIAL: Parking deck opens; earth keeps spinning

The Hendersonville City Council and administrators modeled a campaign for explaining — and selling — change. The Hendersonville City Council and administrators modeled a campaign for explaining — and selling — change.

The mood was exuberant atop the city’s new parking deck last Wednesday during a ribbon cutting ceremony that officially opened the facility.

Mayor Barbara Volk gushed about what an attractive structure the city had erected on North Church Street at Fifth Avenue West.

“People say, ‘I’ve never seen such a nice parking deck,” Volk said. “It looks like an office building.’ Watching it go up with the panels already in place was fascinating for people. And where else can you get a view like this?”

City Manager John Connet made an important point about the genesis of the parking deck.

“As we were starting to talk about this parking deck, there was conversation to put the deck over on the Dogwood lot,” he said. Then-council members Jeff Miller, Ron Stevens and the late Steve Caraker and current member Jerry Smith all said, “‘If we’re gonna do this, we’re gonna buy this property.’ So it was great vision on behalf of the entire city for the council back about four years ago for us to buy the property and put it together.”

Photos show views from the east, south, west and north.Photos show views looking east, south, west and north.Assistant City Manager Brian Pahle, who guided the project, got a well-deserved turn at the mic, boasting that the heaviest precast panel weighed 82,251 pounds. “Also that’s the number of minutes that our staff has put into preparing for this grand opening and the number of comments we have read on Facebook regarding this project,” he cracked.

Paid parking throughout the historic downtown was delayed until 4 a.m. Friday so the City Council could give its final blessing to parking ordinances. Then — voila! — the era of paid parking returned and … along with it, blood-curdling cries, the rending of garments and gnashing of teeth. Oh, wait. That didn’t happen. Why not?

The credit goes to the City Council, Connet, Pahle and city communications chief Allison Justus. The underappreciated fact is that the city’s new parking deck was a model for how to bring about substantial change and not provoke the no-change-to-anything-ever-no-matter-what caucus that is hair-trigger ready to condemn new things that weren’t here when they moved  onto former farmland themselves 10 years ago.

If he did once, Pahle must have painstakingly described 82,251 times the simple three-legged stool of parking economics. Parking can be convenient, available or free but not all three at once. Each step of the way, city administrators and the city’s public relations team clearly and carefully explained the plan. We’ll repay the loan for the parking deck through paid parking there and on Main Street and the avenues. Pay to park, walk two blocks or visit a strip center. Either way, homeowners and businesses won’t pay for the parking deck through property taxes.

Yep, we’ll pay $2 an hour to park — a third of what we plunk down for a pint at the brewpub. The city’s open, transparent and direct presentation of the change stands as a model of how to gently guide the public into acceptance of — even support for — needed change.