Ruminations: The Jittery Joe's Parking Issue

In his column this week, Flagpole editor Pete McCommons, who is a dedicated customer of the coffee shop at the Jittery Joe’s Roasting Co., nonetheless lays out the case for denying the coffee shop its parking space in order to preserve our overall commitment to a downtown not blighted by unsightly little unpaved lots. ACC zoning folks apparently fear that granting Jittery Joe’s special permission to operate their lot will trigger a flood of applications from others that the county will be hard-pressed to deny. Nice job on the column, Pete. It provides a perspective that’s been missing in the public discourse about the issue.

I’m not prepared just yet to buy ACC’s case. I concede readily that I haven’t read the relevant provisions of the land use law. And I don’t intend to read them. If they need to be changed to conform to what common sense requires, then let’s do that.

If I understand correctly what we’re doing as a community, we’re drawing a distinction between downtown and other areas, and we’re saying that we don’t want myriad little parking lots downtown, but we’re okay with little parking lots in areas of the county beyond downtown. Do I have that right?

If that’s right, then I a have problem describing the roasting company coffee shop as a “downtown” business. Have you been there? It’s down a hill, quite steep in places, between the railroad tracks and the river on what’s called East Broad Street, but easily might be called “Broad Street Extension.” If you parked at the last metered space on Broad Street and walked to the roasting company coffee shop, you’d need to shift to a lower walking gear to negotiate the grade, your walk back would be decidedly uphill, and you’d walk a substantially greater distance than you would, say, from a metered space to Five Star Day or Trappeze or O.K. Coffee. Morever, the businesses and other uses neighboring the coffee shop are not within the core common-sense definition of downtown uses. The area might be described most accurately as mixed.

Here’s another thing. If what we’re worried about is unsightliness, then is it more unsightly to have customers parked in the space next to the coffee shop, or is it more unsightly to have that lot remain empty? Unsightliness, of course, is in the eye of the beholder, but I personally like the look of the lot filled with cars.

I personally find distinguishable allowing a lot at the roasting company coffee shop and allowing one, say, in the space now occupied by the remains of the Georgia Theatre.

JIttery Joe’s is not some ad hoc operation just out to make a killing selling parking spaces to football fans a few weekends a year with no regard for the community in which it operates. Jittery Joe’s is a solid citizen of ACC.

If our zoning provisions and/or zoning administrators are not flexible enough to take all of these factors into account in deciding the coffee shop parking issue, then maybe we need to consider some changes.


Anonymous said...

It all comes down to parking, my friends.

I'm not hip to the legal details, etc., but it seems to me, they've got the gravel ad hoc lot to the left (if you are facing the building), why not let them use it as is. I agree, it's not "downtown" per se, but close enough, despite the steep hill.

A side note: have you ever tried to park on the other side of the Jittery Joe's Roaster building? I did once and caught holy hell from the receptionist at the neighboring business. I daresay she was a bit rude! But, I guess, she was in the right.

Parking is just such a big deal...

Adrian Pritchett said...

Parking lots are a special use for the zoning classification and not just because it is "downtown." I guess what is frustrating is not just the result of the strict rules but the fact that we have a process to elect our county commissioners, we get opportunities for public input into land use regulations, but then we act surprised when the rules our community has supported or condoned are enforced. Also, we cannot expect an enforcement official to violate an ordinance by issuing a type of permit which our commissioners have explicitly directed cannot be issued. Indeed, our local regulations frequently lead to results that don't make common sense, so it is our job as citizens to be involved with our local political process so that our regulations will make more sense. We have so many regulations that our commissioners hardly have the time and knowledge to anticipate the unintended consequences when they are put into place, but we have the opportunity to improve the process by sharing our constructive input.