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Overcrowded parking lots cause many safety issues

An overcrowded parking lot can cause numerous safety issues for law enforcement officers and firefighters, public safety officials said Tuesday.
    "First and foremost is being accessible to public safety vehicles, whether it be police, fire or EMS," said Stan York, chief of the Statesboro Police Department. "That's the biggest thing."
    The Statesboro City Council will be addressing overcrowded shopping centers at their meeting tonight in which they'll discuss a proposal designed to alleviate parking issues in shopping centers created by too many restaurants.
    The ordinance would require city officials to recalculate parking in shopping centers if at least 30 percent of the available retail space became devoted to restaurants.
    "We've found in some shopping centers, with University Plaza being the best example, that when you have a large percentage of restaurants, suddenly the shopping center can't meet the demand for parking," said Jim Shaw, planning director for the city of Statesboro. "With our current requirement, it assumes there will be a mixture of uses with different peak demand times."
    Shopping centers can have fewer parking spaces for the businesses than if they were all stand alone stores because it is assumed they can share parking.
    Under the proposed ordinance, if the 30 percent mark was reached, the parking formula for restaurants would be used for that percentage of the center and then the remaining spaces would be available. If a new restaurant would create a situation where there wasn't enough parking, additional parking would need to be installed or a variance would have to be granted by the city council.
    York also cited University Plaza as a problem area, saying there have been times when the parking lot was so crowded that police officers were not able to get their cars into the area.
    "There were vehicles parked improperly that made it inaccessible for to get our vehicles there to respond," York said.
    The council has already approved the measure once at their previous meeting. However, like all ordinances, it must be approved at two separate readings before it takes effect.

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