Summerville backtracks on plan for paid parking at city garage

Published: Aug. 3, 2022 at 3:38 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 3, 2022 at 7:20 PM EDT
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SUMMERVILLE, S.C. (WCSC) - Summerville town leaders have decided to keep parking at the city parking garage free, at least for now.

Many residents spoke out against a plan to change the free garage into a pay-to-park facility when they learned town leaders were considering that option.

“We were really worrying that our customers wouldn’t come, and they wouldn’t feel as welcome to come,” Hanebrink Jewelers manager Alicia Suarez said.

Summerville Town Councilman Russ Touchberry said there were repairs that needed to be done to the garage and they needed to figure out how to fund that. Many options were discussed and paying for parking was one of those options.

The community has come out to several different sessions to share their thoughts. At one of them, Touchberry said he took two pages of notes. He said it was “fantastic” to hear from business owners and citizens who use the parking garage.

“The heart of town right here, the businesses are thriving, they’re doing very well, they’ve rebounded from covid,” Touchberry said. “We have new investment, new restaurants, new shops, and all of the concerns expressed that this may, paying for parking, charging for parking in our parking garage, could disrupt the momentum. And we did not want to disrupt the momentum.”

Diane Frankenberger is the owner of People, Places, and Quilts, which has been open for 33 years. She says although there’s room for parking improvements in the town, she’s grateful that the downtown area is booming because she says it hasn’t always been that way.

“Right now, we’ve got a parking problem, and if they started to charge for it, it would just make it worse,” Frankenberger said.

Some are now thanking the Town for listening to their concerns.

Katie Marodis is the shopkeeper at Everything Chic. When she heard that their customers might have to pay to park, she said it was distressing. Now, she says she’s delighted that their voices were heard.

“Listen to the voice of the people, those who are speaking the loudest,” Marodis said. “The merchants are very important to the climate of the town, and what people love, especially this area right here in the downtown.”

While parking will remain free for now, Touchberry said he doesn’t want to make any guarantees for the future.

Touchberry said Mayor Ricky Waring told him he would not put the item on the council agenda. Touchberry doesn’t anticipate another council member will, but if they do, he doesn’t believe it would have any support across the board.

Touchberry encourages all citizens to continue to approach Summerville officials with feedback.

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