Town eases parking downtown

Fred McCormick
Black Mountain News

It should be easier to find a place to park in downtown Black Mountain this spring.

In a series of recent moves, the town acquired additional public parking and made existing spaces more visible for motorists. The measures are preliminary steps toward addressing parking issues in the district.

A blue parking sign with the town seal signals to drivers that 20 public spaces are available in the lot adjacent to SunTrust on the south side of the railroad tracks. Installing uniform signage was one of the measures recently taken by the town of Black Mountain to address parking issues in the area.

“We’ve obviously been aware of the growing demand for parking as downtown continues to become more popular,” town manager Matt Settlemyer said.

The town counted 161 on-street spaces downtown during an inventory it took last summer. Additionally, there are 33 spaces in the town hall lot and 59 spaces near the town square, all open to the public. 

The public lot on the south side of the railroad tracks, adjacent to SunTrust Bank, contains 20 public parking spaces. Another 37 public spaces are on Sutton Avenue.

Additionally, the town recently made official agreements with the Black Mountain Methodist and Black Mountain Presbyterian churches for public parking during hours when church is not in session. The two lots on the Methodist church’s property have 58 spaces; the Presbyterian lot, next to White Horse Black Mountain, has 30.

The agreements hold the town responsible for maintaining the lots and allowing for the installation of signage, town clerk Angela Reece said. 

More public parking was acquired by the town at the end of February when it finalized the purchase of 1.7 acres centered around 304 Black Mountain Ave. (Carolina Foam, Fabric and Home Decor, which closes May 6). The riverside property includes a vacant lot on the north side of Terry Estates Drive. That swath of land contains 73 public parking spaces, currently available for public use.

The town now has 521 public spaces in the downtown district, according to Reece, who partnered with Black Mountain resident and preservation commission member Lauronda Teeple to create uniform signage for the district. And signs will help, Settlemyer said.

“Consistent signage is a way to help people understand where to look for parking, where they may not have known in the past,” he said. “If our signage is consistent in terms of look and design, then people know what to look for.”

The blue signs were installed by the public services department in the final week of March. They feature the town’s seal and a large blue “P” over a square white background with an arrow directing motorists.

All of the public parking will be restriped when the weather allows, Reece said.

These steps should provide some parking relief for the area while the town prepares for a transportation and circulation study of the district later this year, Settlemyer said.

“We were awarded funding for a study through the French Broad Metropolitan Planning Organization," Settlemyer said. “It’s a transportation and circulation study, and what it will really identify is how all modes of transportation - cars, pedestrians and bicycles - move through your downtown. When do they move, what are peak times, when is there less circulation and where are they trying to get to.”

The town will contribute $7,000 toward the $35,000 study, but funding will not be available until the new fiscal year on July 1, Settlemyer said.

"We'll send out requests for proposals to firms once the funding is available," he said. 

The study will help town officials better understand movement patterns downtown, according to Settlemyer.

"It will provide a broad review of everyone moves around downtown," he said. "And it will allow us to tie into other comprehensive plans we currently have, like the pedestrian and bicycle plans, while focusing on downtown and how all modes of traffic move through the area."

Settlemyer said similar studies have been done in places like Hendersonville and Chapel Hill in recent years. The report will not only identify how traffic moves through the area, but also offer ways to mitigate issues found during the process. 

"There may be a variety of suggestions to come out of it," Settlemyer said. "But it will not only help us gather data on what's happening in that part of Black Mountain, it will also help us figure out how to address things more efficiently."