The ongoing negotiations between the city of Marietta and Cobb County regarding a new parking deck downtown have highlighted the issue. Merchants on the Square, who depend on foot traffic, say their patrons complain about a shortage of parking spaces.
Some of them, including Jim Kumpe, believe their businesses are hurting because of a lack of parking spaces.
"There should be no reason that shop owners, county workers or people at the (Cobb) courthouse don't have a place to park," said Kumpe, who's owned Antiques on the Square for 22 years.
Darryl Prezzano has co-owned The Vineyard Cafe, which overlooks the Square, for two years. His restaurant's problem is that it regularly has parties, which means many guests arrive at one time and have to compete for an open parking space.
"So if we've got 30 people coming in to eat, there's six or seven carloads that are coming and they can't find parking and are circling around," he said.
"As far as amount of parking, of course a garage is a great idea, but the principal interest that I have is allowing people to have more time to park, because they put a two-hour limit. So if they want to go shopping, and then they want to go have lunch for an hour, they're going to get a (parking) ticket when they get back."
Cobb Commission Chairman Sam Olens has offered the city of Marietta 102 of the 525 park spaces in the new $10 million parking deck the county is building next to City Hall on the site of the former Fulton Federal Savings & Loan off the Square. The deck, expected to be open in February 2011, is being built in conjunction with the Cobb Superior Court building on Haynes Street.
Earlier this month, he said if the Marietta City Council doesn't agree to the proposed agreement in the next few weeks, the county would build the deck without the city.
The cost in building the deck, which would be a maximum of $10 million, would be shared by the county and city in a 75/25 percent split.
The points of contention between the city and county include how revenue would be collected from public parking ticket sales and how maintenance and operations would be paid for. City Hall is likely to discuss the issue during committee meetings that begin at 5:15 p.m. Wednesday.
Marietta Mayor Bill Dunaway said on Saturday he believes the "city should wait to see the effect of the county's parking deck" before it decides to buy into either of two parking deck proposals. If there is still a need, the city should build a deck, he said.
The second proposal was made by Downtown Marietta Development Authority Chairman Tom Browning. It would deed the historic Kennesaw House on Marietta Square to the city. In return, Browning wants the city to give its roughly 300 on-street parking spaces around the Square to the DMDA for the next 30 years.
The DMDA would charge a fee for those parking spaces during selected hours. There is currently no charge to park in the spaces. The money generated would be used to build a several-story $4 million to $5 million parking deck off Mill Street on top of its existing lot by the old Pullman railcar and Krystal restaurant.
It would contain about 50 percent more spaces than the estimated 450 spaces in and around the Square, Browning said.
In comparison, the county's planned parking deck, Browning said, would only provide "minor" relief for the Square's parking problem.
"I don't think that's going to impact parking for merchants. It's too far off the Square," Browning said.
In addition, Browning said that there is a different traffic pattern at the Square at night than during the day. After dark, he said, less people tend to park in the county's existing 840-space deck at Waddell and Cherokee streets, which is closer to the Square than the one under construction.
"We've got to do something to help the merchants on the Square," Browning said. "They need some help."
Prezzano said he is in favor of paying for parking on the Square, but only if it allows motorists more time to remain parked in a space.
However, Kumpe disliked the idea.
"I think that would be taking a step back because what's going to happen is the county people are just going to go back to parking on the Square, and coming back every hour or whatever it is, to put more coins into the parking meters," he said.
"I think that would defeat what we've been doing, which is giving tickets to people who are staying there too long."
Dunaway opposes Browning's proposal. He said the city council rejected it in general discussion.
"I think no one is in favor of the DMDA controlling parking in downtown Marietta," he said. Instead, Dunaway said he would like the city to buy space from the DMDA and build on it.
"We will be meeting next week and I hope this can be worked out to the county's and city's satisfaction," Dunaway said.