A new parking lot opening to the public in downtown New Bern will add 50 spaces to the area’s available non-leased parking options for residents and visitors. The only catch? They’ll have to pay for the privilege.
During their September 26 meeting, the New Bern Board of Aldermen voted to approve an amendment to its off-street parking ordinance. Under the change, the parking lot on Pollock Street across from New Bern City Hall will convert from leased spaces to a daily pay-by-plate or pay as you go option for drivers. Citizens and visitors who choose to use the Pollock Street lot will be charged $1.00 per hour for parking plus a transaction fee of .45 cents per transaction. All day parking rates will be capped at $8.
The .45 cent fee will be paid after each transaction and is not an hourly charge.
According to City Manager Foster Hughes, payment can be made by using the ParkMobile parking app and then following instructions on signage that will be placed at the lot. Payment can also be made by scanning a QR code or calling or texting a number to receive instructions.
Parking in the Pollock Street lot will be enforced by the city’s Parking Control officers.
Hughes said there will be 50 spaces available for public use in the Pollock Street lot, with one designated for handicapped use. He said the City plans to have the Pollock Street lot ready for pay as you go parking by next week.
During a discussion of downtown parking options in January, the board gave city staff direction to proceed with plans to convert the Pollock Street lot from a leased space into a pay-to-park zone, with plans to implement the change beginning last May. Hughes said those plans were slowed by unforeseen delays in the ongoing renovation work to City Hall, during which city staff have been using the Pollock Street parking lot. Now that the work is nearing completion, Hughes said the conversion process can move forward.
The future of the ATM currently located in the Pollock Street lot will be the board’s decision, he noted, although city staff have determined its removal would not add any significant room for new parking spaces.
Mayor Jeffrey Odham said the re-designation of the Pollock Street lot will not affect any of the downtown area’s free, on-street parking.
“This is not taking away any free parking today,” he commented. “So we have the same number of free parking spaces after this decision is made as we do today.”
The city also currently maintains three off-street parking lots — the Black Bear Lot (corner of New and Hancock streets), the Red Bear Lot (South end of Craven Street near South Front Street) and the Gold Bear Lot (Farmer’s Market near South Front and Hancock streets) — that are free to the public.
During Tuesday night’s meeting, the board also approved an ordinance update renaming another Pollock Street parking lot at the intersection of Fleet Street as the Brown Bear Lot. Located behind the old Days Inn property the lot is currently open for free parking but could be re-designated in the future should the property be sold for development, according to language in the ordinance.
The city will maintain two leased parking lots — the Craven Street parking lot, which is located on the west side of Craven Street between Pollock Street and South Front Street, and the Hancock Street parking lot on the east side of Hancock Street between Pollock Street and Broad Street.
Hughes said city staff had decided against another possible option of installing a payment kiosk at the Pollock Street lot across from City Hall due to the cost involved, which he said would have been approximately $7,500.
“For the size of the lot we have, the cost doesn’t really justify it… and really a lot of folks are getting away from putting cash into a machine as well,” Hughes said.
Hughes said leasing the Pollock Street parking spaces has generated approximately $7,000 annually, money which has gone to the city’s Municipal Service District. He said funds generated by the new pay-by-plate system will also go to the MSD.
“The thought is that having this be a pay as you go for individual spaces, it’s going to generate more revenue,” he commented.
Hughes admitted that the new system would not be ideal for the “technology challenged.”
“This will be a good trial for us to look at this and see how it goes,” he said. “We may have some hiccups along the way, but we’re prepared to address these and move forward.”
By Todd Wetherington, co-editor. Send an email with questions or comments.