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City addresses parking issues

    When Statesboro's City Council passed a series of new restrictions regarding alcohol near the end of 2005, one of the provisions included recalculating parking in shopping centers when a new or existing restaurant applies for an alcohol license.
    If, however, no alcohol license was requested, then no recalculation of parking was done, leading to the possibility of a shopping center being overloaded with restaurants and there not being enough parking to accommodate everyone.
    Perhaps the best-known example is University Plaza where several restaurants have replaced retail shopping stores, but others like Stadium Plaza and Midtown Development are also experiencing such a transition, creating a parking shortage for those areas.
    "What happens is you have a large percentage of restaurants and suddenly the shopping center can't meet the demand for parking spaces," said Jim Shaw, planning director for Statesboro.
    During several discussions of this provision, it was mentioned that the parking problem comes about because of the restaurant opening, not because of alcohol being served.
    To address the situation, the council approved, on first reading, an ordinance requiring a recalculation of parking based on the restaurant standard once 30 percent of a shopping center's space is devoted to restaurants.
    If the new restaurant would result in insufficient parking, Shaw said they would have the option of trying to find additional parking on site or request a variance from the city council.
    Councilman Gary Lewis said it was a difficult issue to deal with.
    "I don't know how to solve it," he said. "I hope we can come up with a plan for shared parking."
    Lewis said the proposal the city is currently considering is a possible solution, "but it still needs to be studied really closely."
    Fatih Cecen, one of the managers at the soon-to-be opened Don Corleone's Diner and Pizza at Stadium Walk Plaza, said he wasn't sure how the new ordinance would impact problem areas like his location or University Plaza.
    "I don't know how this is going to work for places like that," he said. "We have a parking problem here as well."
    Shaw said the intent of shopping centers it to have a mixture of businesses with different peak hours that share parking. If a significant percentage of the center becomes devoted to restaurants, which generally have the same peak hours, parking becomes a problem.
    Parking is something the city needs to regulate for a couple of reasons, according to Shaw.
    "It can create a safety hazard if people have trouble getting into a parking lot, causing them to back up into a city street," he said. "In addition, if two businesses are next door to each other and the parking lot in one is full, people are going to go next door to park. That's not fair to the business owner who provided sufficient parking."

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