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Parking opinions shared in Shepherdstown

July 08, 2005|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Mayor Peter Wilson said he was expecting a lively discussion on parking during a town meeting Thursday night, and Shepherdstown residents delivered.

For more than an hour at the Shepherdstown Men's Club, Shepherd University officials, town residents and downtown business owners debated ways to free up more parking in town.

Town officials said the parking shortage is most noticeable when the university is in session and students begin gobbling up parking spots in the downtown business area.

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Although parking for Shepherd University students is plentiful on the west campus, many students tend to park in the downtown area, Wilson said.

Speakers at the town meeting said the problem is created by a convenience-driven society where motorists always are trying to find a parking lot closest to their destination.

Shepherdstown-area resident Diana Suttenfield harked back to the days in the 1960s when freshmen at Shepherd were not allowed to have cars.

That idea didn't go far with Ed Magee, vice president for administration and finance at Shepherd.

Magee told the estimated 70 people at the meeting that many of the university's students commute to the school from areas such as Martinsburg, and the school is planning to build a parking garage on its west campus to accommodate commuter students.

"We can't ask them not to have a car," Magee said.

To encourage students to park on the west campus, the Shepherdstown Town Council is considering limiting time on parking meters on German Street and increasing the cost.

The council also is considering allowing motorists without a residential parking permit to park in the town's residential zones for up to an hour.

That generated opposition from some town property owners, who said it's not fair to make them give up their parking spaces to help alleviate a parking shortage in town.

Town residents said they did not want to be battling for parking spaces in front of their houses as they are doing chores such as bringing in groceries.

"Please don't touch residential parking. We're the ones that have to be protected," Sonya Evanisko said. Her comments were followed by a round of applause.

Speakers discussed other ways of discouraging Shepherd students from parking downtown. Magee said moving more academic programs to the west campus would be difficult because of the expense in doing so. Magee said building a parking facility on the east campus would be difficult because of the terrain.

"Unfortunately, we can't enforce what happens in town with our students," Magee said.

As he did earlier in the week, Wilson emphasized that the parking proposals only are a starting point and nothing has been finalized. Wilson said he expects the council to consider the comments from Thursday's meeting and use them to continue fine-tuning the concepts.

"They're not final products. They're starting points," Wilson said of the proposals.

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