New Bern Planning and Zoning Board look to form parking committee to address ‘development and growth’

The New Bern Planning and Zoning Board is seeking to create a committee to address parking issues in the city’s downtown area.

The New Bern Planning and Zoning Board has taken the first steps towards forming a committee to address parking issues within the city. 

During its Dec. 5 meeting, the board voted unanimously to act on a suggestion from member Rusty Ingram that it seek guidance from the New Bern Board of Aldermen on the formation of a parking committee.

Ingram noted that in 2017 aldermen approved the formation of the Master Parking Plan Advisory Committee to come up with solutions to improve the city’s downtown parking and report those findings back to the board. He said a parking study was completed around the same time by a third party.

“I’ve read that study, I have a copy of it,” Ingram said. “It’s very incomplete in my estimation and they made some assumptions that I think were quite erroneous at the time. And things have changed since then.”

Ingram recalled that when the Planning and Zoning Board recently addressed an amendment to the city’s off-street parking requirements, there was discussion of forming a committee to assess parking issues.

Ingram was the lone dissenting vote when the Planning and Zoning Board voted in September to approve changes to the city’s Code of Ordinances that expanded the downtown area’s exempted off-street parking area to include real estate to the west side of East Front Street and down to the south side of South Front Street. The plan was approved by the BOA in October.

In an email sent to the BOA addressing his concerns with the plan, Ingram wrote that he believed there was not enough data available on the subject to make an informed decision. 

During Tuesday’s meeting, Ingram said a parking committee was crucial to address future development and growth in the New Bern area. 

“More people are coming and we better start addressing what those parking needs really look like,” he told the board. “And I don’t see a better place in the city other than this board to try and put together a parking committee and make some recommendations to the Board of Aldermen. We can get members of the public involved if we choose to do so.”

Assistant City Attorney Jaimee Bullock-Mosley said she believed it would be a good idea to get a specific direction from the BOA regarding the direction the parking committee should take. 

“If we’re going to follow the previous precedent then you would send some sort of correspondence to the Board of Aldermen saying this is an issue that we think is important and needs to be taken up and ask for some guidance from the governing board,” Bullock-Mosley commented. 

The board unanimously voted to allow Ingram to draft correspondence to the city “reflecting their desire to have a parking committee as part of the Planning and Zoning Board” and asking them to give the board an assignment to establish that committee to provide recommendations back to the BOA. 

Ingram said he would put together a draft correspondence and send it out to board members. 

The parking committee formed in 2017 was made up of then-aldermen Dallas Blackiston, E.T. Mitchell and Jeffrey Odham as well as the city manager, the city clerk, the president of Swiss Bear Downtown Development Corp., the president of the New Bern area Chamber of Commerce and one member each from the Downtown Merchants Council, the Craven County Tourism Development Authority, and the New Bern Young Professionals Group.

The committee’s recommendations led to the institution of two-hour, on-street parking enforcement in downtown New Bern and the creation of the Red Bear, Gold Bear, and Black Bear free parking lots.

By Todd Wetherington, co-editor. Send an email with questions or comments.