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City invites public to comment on parking deck and other upcoming projects

A parking garage, says Jerry Smith, is hardly a new idea.


“The reality is, since the day I started on the council, people have talked about a parking deck,” says Smith, a Hendersonville City Council member since 2009, “and we feel like we’re trying to meet the demand with a realistic way of paying for it.”
As the proposed parking deck inches ahead from concept to concrete, council members are hearing plenty of feedback. They’re likely to hear plenty more in two weeks. The city has scheduled a public input opportunity from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 13, at the City Operations Center. People will have an opportunity to look at renderings and ask the staff questions during an open house for the first hour, said City Manager John Connet. The council will hear public comment starting at 6:30 and then wrap up with a Q&A. The city also is working to show the forum on Facebook Live.
Some people are already expressing strong opposition to the five-story structure a half block off the city’s historic Main Street and others don’t like the idea of paying anything to park downtown. Parking, with time restrictions, has been free for more than 30 years.
City officials and the city’s parking consultants unveiled a proposed $7.2 million parking deck three weeks ago that would provide 323 spaces. If the two sides sign an agreement in the coming months, the city would sell the Dogwood parking lot to a developer for a hotel with a meeting space. The parking deck would replace the lost spaces in the city lot and provide paid covered parking downtown for the first time. Parking on Main Street and the avenues would go to $1.50 an hour from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. City Manager John Connet and the parking experts the city hired say generating a source of revenue from street parking is the only way to finance the garage without asking taxpayers to underwrite the cost.
Smith, a history and civics teacher at Hendersonville High School, said he’s still absorbing the details of the proposed parking deck and consultants’ recommendation for funding it.
“I’m interested in receiving feedback on metering downtown,” he said. “I’ve already received a fair amount of it. The moment I walked into school the next day, people were in my ear.”
Even as people complain that parking is too scarce downtown, they also resist paying.
“I don’t know what direction that sends us in,” Smith said. “To be honest that is what we want to hear from people about. Most mid-sized towns, you have to pay something to park but I know that here culturally it’s accepted that you don’t pay to park on Main Street. There might be limitations in how long you can be there but you don’t pay. It just seems to me we have to come up with something, graduated moving into that system.”
City Council member Jeff Miller, who has run a dry cleaning business downtown for decades, said he wants to learn more about the parking fees and hours.
“I’ve had both positive comments and negative comments,” he said. “More to the positive side, but certainly from folks unhappy about having to pay anything to park on Main Street. I’ve definitely had two or three comments to that effect.
“But most of the time I tell them that we’re looking at letting the first hour in the parking deck be no charge. When you also throw in there that if there’s no parking deck there’s no hotel,” some people are more receptive. “And of course people that don’t want the hotel could care less if there’s a parking deck.”
The council will talk about the parking deck in the coming weeks, as part of its annual budget retreat in late February. And the council is expected to invite public comment on the idea as well.
In an interview, Connet laid out the parking deck and downtown parking proposal and the recommendations so far. Here are the details:
• The parking deck charge would be $1.25 an hour, compared to $1.50 for the metered spaces. There will be no parking garage attendant. Payments would be made by cash or credit card. There will be an economy rate for the upper levels. The City is considering a small car parking area, special rates for festivals, and a digital counter to signal drivers how many public spaces remain.
• The hotel is expected to lease 40 spaces in the new garage. Downtown employees who need to park all day would pay $30 per month to park in designated first-come-first-served spaces.
• Those who lease spaces now in the Dogwood lot could lease a parking deck space for $80 per month, double the current rate.
• Parking throughout most of downtown would cost $1.50 an hour but free after 6 p.m. There will be approximately four kiosks per block on Main Street plus two on each of the avenues. Kiosks will be similar to those the city has installed at the city lots. A new “pay by smart phone” app will be added. Each kiosk costs about $15,000. The city would keep the free 30-minute parking spaces but naturally strict enforcement will be needed.

Downtown Hendersonville, Connet noted, has added numerous amenities over the past 25 years — free concerts, Historic Courthouse renovation, streetscape improvements, sidewalk dining and stage attractions. But the advent of a new hotel and five-story parking garage would be a sea change for downtown. Connet thinks that if the hotel is successful, more will follow.
“Nobody wants to be the first in but it’s going to be up to the market to see who can survive,” said Connet. “The city is fortunate in having the available property and thus being able to influence what the building will look like. We won’t have that luxury for the next hotel.”
Miller agreed that if the details can be worked out, the hotel and parking deck could move the city ahead.
“It’s a great opportunity for the long-term good of the city to go ahead and get this deck and get it done,” he said. “Coming on the heels of the mill opening, I think the city really looks healthy. I commend the previous council as well as the last one and hopefully the new one for doing a lot to make it happen.”
Smith says he looks forward to hearing from downtown visitors and others.
“I think that we are going to have some type of public meeting to discuss it,” he said. “That’s in the works, sooner rather than later. I’m not against the parking deck, it’s the other auxiliary things that go with it — the metering of downtown and all that. There’s a lot left to be discussed on all that.”

City invites input on upcoming projects

The city is inviting the public to learn about major upcoming projects, make comments and ask questions during a meeting on Feb. 13.

In addition to the downtown hotel and parking deck, the City Council is considering or has committed to a new police station on Ashe Street, replacing Fire Station 1 and relocating the mini-golf course and tennis courts and Seventh Avenue streetscape. The first hour of the meeting will consist of a project open house where the public can visit stations to learn about individual projects from city staff. At 6:30 p.m. council members and staff members will make a presentation followed by a question and answer session.

The presentation will be streamed live on the City of Hendersonville’s Facebook page at for those unable to attend in person. The city will post a survey at following the meeting for individuals wishing to provide feedback.