GREENVILLE — A few downtown shoppers may have found a surprise waiting for them after returning to their vehicles last week, as they discovered that Greenville police had served them citations for violating the city’s 90-minute parking ordinance.
Signs advertising the ordinance, which is in effect between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, are placed on most of the lampposts lining the north and south sides of Broadway St downtown. The ordinance, according to Greenville police, has been in effect for many years, replacing a previous system in which paid parking meters were utilized downtown.
“We don’t monitor parking unless somebody complains,” said Greenville police dispatcher Pamela Shepherd.
Shepherd specified that the department employs no full-time parking enforcement officers and that, when the police receive a complaint – typically from a business owner downtown – a patrol officer is sent to make note of vehicles parked in that block, on both sides of the street. A second sweep is done 90 minutes later, and any remaining vehicles receive a $10 parking citation at that time.
Concerns about the parking ordinance were touched off on Friday afternoon, when a downtown shopper complained to the Darke County Visitors Bureau after being ticketed.
“If you’re spending more than 90 minutes downtown, you’re probably spending a lot more than you are for a parking ticket,” said county commissioner Mike Stegall, who was informed of the incident shortly thereafter. “Let’s just say the people I’ve talked to about this are not happy.”
Mainstreet Greenville director Crysta Hutchinson expressed similar sentiments, saying that while she doesn’t recall receiving many complaints about the ordinance, she hopes the experience of receiving a citation won’t make visitors think twice about deciding to shop downtown.
“Obviously the sidewalk sales are a big deal for downtown businesses,” Hutchinson said. “We’d hate for this to leave a bad taste in anyone’s mouth.”
Twenty citations were issued over a three-day period last week, according to Greenville Safety Director Curt Garrison, all stemming from complaints called in by business owners in the 300 and 400 blocks of South Broadway St. When it comes to addressing these complaints, said Garrison, it all comes down to fairness.
“The ordinance is there to benefit downtown businesses,” said Garrison. “If parking was unlimited, maybe people would camp out downtown for an excessive period of time to get access to the sidewalk sales, as we know they do on Black Friday. Or if people patronize one of the larger businesses and take up all the spaces in a certain block, then other businesses on that block can’t have a customer park in front of their store. Say someone stands in line for an hour and a half, then decides to walk down the street and get lunch. Before you know it they’ve spent four hours downtown. and left their car sitting in front of a business they’re not patronizing the whole time.”
Ultimately, said Garrison, no business owners have come to the city council to complain about the ordinance.
“Business owners need to be able to work this out among themselves,” Garrison said, “in order to find a workable solution.”