Critics Move to Block Overton Square Permit Parking Plan 

Opposition has surfaced and is growing against a plan before the Memphis City Council that would allow exclusive parking on some streets around Overton Square for residents living around the revitalized entertainment district.

That one-year pilot plan would allow Square-area residents to buy an annual parking permit for $50. Residents could also buy up to four visitor permits for $25 each. The permits would allow them exclusive rights to park in spots on city streets that are currently open to the general public. Those spots would only be within a defined parking district.    

The plan is moving through the council's legislative process now and got the first of three needed approvals during last week's council meeting. Should the ordinance face no big hurdles in the council process, it could become law during the council's meeting on Tuesday, June 17th.

But a petition against the idea began two weeks ago by resident Gene Elliott, who said "residents should not have to pay to park in front of their own property." Elliott said if the ordinance is passed, residents and their guests would have to opt into the permit program and pay the $50 or risk being ticketed. 

"Memphis already has an extremely high property tax rate. This permit will only add to the burden of local residents and businesses," said Elliott's petition. "Residents should not have to pay to park in their own neighborhood!"

The petition had 106 signatures at press time. Comments on the petition echoed Elliott's sentiments on the extra financial burden the permits would bring and the adverse effects they'd have on tourism, businesses, and residents. While that petition is the most formal opposition to the plan, discussion on the matter has also filled comment threads on Facebook and local media websites.   

Council Chairman Jim Strickland brought the parking-permit ordinance to the council. He said he's aware of the opposition to the plan and met with several businesses and residents in the area last week to try to resolve some issues.

"There's just misinformation out there," Strickland said. "One of the points is: 'How dare you charge people to park on their own streets?' First, it's the residents who wanted the program. It was not originated for the city to make money. I'm only pursuing it because the people living there asked for it."

The cost of the permits only covers the cost of administering the permit program, Strickland said. 

If the program is approved by the council, petitions will be sent to residents in the parking permit district. Should enough residents on any one street sign the city's petition, their street could become part of the parking district. 

So far, that district is limited to an area bound by Cox Street on the east, Morrison Street on the west, Union Avenue on the south, and Jefferson Avenue on the north. A section of Lee Place North is also included. Neighbors within that area can determine whether or not they want their street in the program.  

City of Memphis Engineering Director John Cameron said if a street is approved for the program, signs would be erected there, residents and permitted visitors would get their permit (a sticker or a hang tag), and anyone who parks there without a permit would be ticketed.   

The council will likely discuss the matter during their next committee session on June 3rd. 

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