Jacksonville eases Britt parking rules

JACKSONVILLE — Britt Music Festivals fans will find more parking closer to the venue and have less chance of receiving parking tickets this year.

City Council action has opened up about 150 spaces south of California Street previously marked for residential parking only.

Council members March 20 unanimously approved removing the resident-only restrictions. But residents who do not have off-street parking can apply for a dedicated space in front of their house.

City Planning Director Amy Stevenson said affected streets include South Oregon, South Third, South Fourth, Main, Pine and Fir.

"We have kind of gone back and forth, and we are undoing what was done," said Stevenson. "What we'd like to do is try it again without those signs for the next Britt season."

Some residents interviewed Tuesday morning were pleased with the change and others didn't like it.

"It's reasonable. This is public land," said Judy Zerull, who lives in the 400 block of South Third Street. "The sooner they take down the signs the better."

Zerull said she used to invite concertgoers to park in her driveway and warn others they would be ticketed for parking on the street. The restrictions also made parking difficult for her guests during the summer.

But Liz Smith, who lives in the 400 block of South Oregon, doesn't like the change. She shares a narrow driveway with her neighbors, and they would get permits so they could park their trucks on the street.

"People are going to come park here for Britt, so I'm going to have to park up to three miles away," said Smith.

For sold-out concerts, parking may begin in the morning, said Smith, adding she won't be able to find a spot when she returns in the afternoon.

"I think it's actually better to let people park here," said Ronit Gibb, who resides in the 300 block of South Oregon. "I'm happy about that."

Gibb said she used to warn tourists and others not to park after they saw her park on the street with a permit.

Council action followed a unanimous recommendation from the city's Parking Commission, which reviewed a survey of parking spots.

Seasonal parking restrictions, from June 1 to Sept. 30, were enacted about 10 years ago, Police Chief David Towe told commissioners. Residents had complained about late-night noise after concerts.

Under the old system, residents could apply for permits to allow them to park on the streets. Numerous warning signs on the streets will be removed.

A Southern Oregon University intern in the Planning Department, Lance Woods, surveyed all parking spots in town. He found that lifting the restrictions south of California would free up 150 spaces. Only about 15 houses in the area lacked off-street parking, he said.

Parking commissioners also went out on a "recon" mission, said Stevenson.

"While we were out and about, we ran into people. They said, 'Yeah, it just seems like we don't need the entire block ... most of us do have at least a driveway,' " Stevenson reported.

"Even some of the people who put it in place were trying to get rid of it," said Councilman David Jesser, chairman of the Parking Commission. "It just didn't work very well."

While the Britt Festival will be one of the main beneficiaries, others will also be aided by the changes, said Jesser.

"The Jacksonville business community will benefit from it due to the increase of the tourist industry," said Jesser. "With the growth of the wine industry, this is a forward-thinking process."

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

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