The Oregon Hill Neighborhood Association monthly meeting became heated once the topic of parking came up.
The meeting, led by association president Todd Woodson, was moved inside Saint Andrews Episcopal Church due to an overflowing crowd of attendees at its scheduled location next door.
Those attendees included a passionate group of Oregon Hill renters, homeowners, business owners, and neighborhood stakeholders. Each brought varying opinions about the association’s plan to submit a strict parking permit program to Richmond City Council.
“What I’m saying is that this is a neighborhood driven issue,” Woodson told the group. “You have VCU students – you look at 5:20 in the afternoon on a weekday. It’s like the bell just rang and the street clears out.”
The Oregon Hill and Randolph neighborhoods are the only areas in the city that border VCU’s campus with free and unrestricted parking, according to meeting organizers.
As a result, Woodson said homeowners and renters are forced to park blocks away from their homes when those from outside park on the streets.
“We have construction workers that will park their cars and carpool to another site,” he explained.
The association had been working on a parking permit program and collecting signatures for several years, according to former president Jennifer Hancock.
The permit plan included restrictions to parking for streets and blocks mostly in the northern side of Oregon Hill that border VCU’s Monroe Park Campus. The plan would require residents and renters to apply for a permit in order to leave their car parked for more than an hour or two hours depending on the block.
Hancock said parking would be restricted for those without a permit from 7 a.m. until midnight Monday through Saturday and from noon to midnight on Sundays.
It was the maximum number of hours that the city would allow the association to restrict she said. Hancock admitted they originally asked for a 24 hour, 7 days a week restriction policy.
A 60 percent majority of renters’ and residents’ signatures from each block are required for the plans to be submitted and approved.
However, business owners like Justin Torone of “Richmond’s premier oddity shop” Rest in Pieces on Laurel Street was outspoken in his disapproval for the plan. He believed the restrictions could take parking away from his customers.
“How are we supposed to compromise when you already have your mind made up?” Torone asked Woodson.
Woodson replied business owners don’t get a vote in the permit plans because they aren’t residents.
“It matters because my business is my livelihood and my employees,” Torone replied.
That would require volunteers to canvass the neighborhood for signatures.
One longtime Oregon Hill resident believed the association shouldn’t touch the parking issue in his neighborhood.
“I’ve been here for 15 years. This is a little slice of heaven right here. Every time we change something and take a chance with the city and poke the hornets’ nest we have a chance of screwing it up,” he said.
The Randolph Neighborhood Association are securing signatures to submit their own permit parking plan, according to Richmond City Councilman Parker Agelasto’s liaison Amy Robins.
The fear is if Randolph’s plan is approved by City Council then even more outside traffic will decide to park in Oregon Hill.