Business owners in downtown Mount Airy said yesterday that strict enforcement of the town's two-hour parking limit over the past two weeks has helped to improve their business.
"It seems like the violators have gotten the message, and it's working," said Bob Browning of Browning's Insurance Agency on Main Street.
Five owners of downtown businesses attended a meeting called HTC yesterday by Mayor Gerald Johnson to assess the effectiveness of the stepped-up parking enforcement.
At the request of downtown business people, Mr. Johnson had (( asked Mount Airy's resident troopers to enforce strictly the town's two-hour parking limit on Main Street.
Ben Gue, owner of Ben Gue Antiques on Main Street, said that since the stricter enforcement began, he has seen an increase in the number of older customers in his store. He said the availability of parking near his shop made it easier for them to come to the store.
Trooper Ed Muller, a Mount Airy resident, said police have issued seven $10 tickets and four warnings since the parking crackdown.
Trooper Muller said he and the town's other three resident troopers would do their best to continue ticketing parking offenders, but he emphasized that their first concern is public safety.
"These things are far down on our priority list," he told the business owners.
He suggested increasing the parking fine to $20 and creating more parking spaces as ways to alleviate the town's parking problem.
"Some people are willing to pay $10 to park on the street all day," Trooper Muller said.
Also present at yesterday's meeting was Dick Owings, a plans examiner with Carroll's Office of Licenses and Permits. Mayor Johnson invited Mr. Owings to talk to business owners about state and federal laws governing building access for the disabled.
Some potential buyers of vacant Main Street buildings have complained that it isn't cost-effective to bring the old buildings // into compliance with accessibility laws.
Mr. Owings explained that business owners can apply for waivers to the laws if it is impossible to make the required changes.
"We all know, especially in Mount Airy, there are certain times you can't do it," Mr. Owings said. "That's what the waiver process is for."
Dottie Gosnell, who runs the Olde Town Restaurant on Main Street, expressed skepticism about Mr. Johnson's plan to form a Mount Airy Economic Development Council to bring business to the town and revitalize Main Street.
Mr. Johnson said business representatives from surrounding shopping centers are welcome to join the council.
"I don't think the people in those shopping centers care one iota about us poor devils downtown," Mrs. Gosnell said.