GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The Gulfport City Council has decided to make way for future business downtown by eliminating unlimited parking passes for people who live there.
Economic Development Director David Parker said the ordinance was passed by the council Tuesday, because 99 percent of business downtown is retail. Parker said because of the new businesses and attractions popping up in downtown Gulfport, parking there is becoming more valuable for employees and customers.
"After the storm, the city was trying to recruit downtown living. There was not near as much retail as there is now, so parking passes were able to be given to residents so they could park and not be ticketed for two hour parking," said Parker.
He said although it won't affect many people, those who do have a residential parking pass will be grandfathered in, but no more will be issued.
"It will positively affect our business owners who need parking at their front door so people can park to come in and shop," said Parker.
Councilman R. Lee Flowers said those who currently have the exemption will be able to keep it until 2020, then it will expire and become nonrenewable.
With the Gulfport Aquarium scheduled to open in 2019, city leaders say they're already seeing increased interest in the downtown area from developers. That's why, Parker says, the city believes now is the right time to make the change.
"When developers come into downtown and they create housing opportunities for people, they'll have to provide parking for them as well. They won't be able to just rely on on the street parking, which is in front of retail businesses. It could block a very valuable parking spot to a business all day, or all night," said Parker.
Former Gulfport councilman Ricky Dombrowski, who owns property downtown, said before the ordinance changed, residents could get two parking stickers that exempted them from the two hour parking limits downtown, which are in affect weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.