WEST COLUMBIA, S.C. — People in the West Columbia community are looking for a solution to parking issues as the city continues to grow development in the area and people fight to preserve the historic mill village.
The concern took spotlight on Monday morning after a firetruck couldn't get through the Oliver and Court Avenue intersection.
City officials say around the curve, people have been parking illegally along the curb. Folks in the neighborhood say this has caused an issue with homeowners having a place to put their cars in front of their own homes.
With a fire truck responding to an alarm and there being tight space in between the parked cars on both side of the road, contact was made so first responders could get to where they needed to go.
Street Squad Lexington talked with the owner of a vehicle who was hit and since their car was on the right side of the road and legally parked, the owner says the city will pay to get their bumper fixed.
Tem Miles is the city councilman for District 4, the area where most people have complained about parking.
"It could have been a more serious problem with a car stuck out further," said Miles. "As a result, we've been waiting on the contractor to finish up with the construction work out there and to turn that back over and the paving of that street is part of that plan."
Jennifer Boyd from West Columbia and others who live in the Mill Village say parking has been a continuing and growing issue for a long time. Boyd says she's fine with the development, as long as it's smart and thought out.
"It's a part of the growing pains that we're seeing right now," said Boyd.
Boyd and others in the community say there are not enough spaces to park in the area because of the new growth with the Brookland Apartment Homes and new restaurants popping up.
Boyd claims the community brought this issue to council before ground was broken on the new apartment complex. Her biggest concern is first responders being able to get to the places they need to go like early Monday morning.
"If that had been a life and death situation, someone could have died," said Boyd. "It's extreme to say, but you just don't ever know. As residents down here said from the very beginning, with growth you need to look at the entire surrounding area and make sure first responders can get through to where they need to be with no issue."
The City of West Columbia says they wanted to resolve the issue immediately so first responders could get through without issue. On Monday, West Columbia Public Works came out to paint the curb red near the intersection of Oliver Street and Court Avenue so drivers know they aren't allowed to park there.
"At the end of the day, we've got to enforce the no parking areas better and have folks who park on curb, we're going to have to start towing cars out," explained Miles.
Boyd feels with the new no parking zone on the corner, it will help alleviate some of the parking problems.
"You don't have the possibility of someone saying, 'Oh, it's not marked, I didn't know I was supposed to park there,'" said Boyd.
One of the other issues the community wants addressed is parking along some of the historic Mill Village streets.
"The streets in the mill village are very, very narrow," said Miles. "They are historic streets. There are a lot of people who park on the streets there, and we've been working to come up with a parking plan to address that."
Miles believes it's been an issue since cars have become popular and families were able to own multiple vehicles.
Some say people have lost parking on the street and in the alleyways because of construction for new developments.
Miles says some of the changes they are looking into include making some roads one-way streets with parking on one side of the street and traffic flowing through the other.
Boyd, who used to live on Carpenter Street, thinks it would be smart to have street improvements while development is ongoing. She thinks this could be a good option if the city moves forward with it.
"That is really, in my opinion, the best solution to the problem and it's not something that has happened yet. Although the development is getting to be finished and the park is getting to be finished and I know that the city has been working on it, but it doesn't seem it has taken priority at this point," explained Boyd.
Street Squad Lexington talked to homeowners in the area and they say they would be open to the idea of parking on one side of the street and allowing traffic to travel one way on the other side.
The city says they are still needing to do studies and talk with the South Carolina Department of Transportation before making any changes. Officials ask folks to be patient as everyone works through the process of these changes.
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