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Parking Meter Rate Hike Raises Ire Of Small Business Owners in Downtown Columbus

The price of parking at City of Columbus parking meters began going up this week. The city has increased the rates by 50 percent. That's upset some downtown business owners who say they were never notified about the increase.

A quarter doesn't buy much anymore; at least at parking meters in downtown Columbus. A quarter in this meter on Gay Street racks up only seven minutes.

Driver Christie Rogers, who had to dig up a handful of quarters, says the 50 percent rate hike is another reason not to come downtown.

"It's a problem because I think people should be incentivized to visit downtown not disincentivized and I think it's going to make people less likely to patronize the local businesses," Rogers says.

Jeff Mathes worries that Rogers is right. Mathes owns the restaurant called Barrio on North High Street

"The number one complaint we get is that parking is inconvenient and expensive," Mathes says. "So to raise that [rate] is kind of like a slap in the face.

The rate increase apparently caught many local business owners - including Mathes - off guard. But City of Columbus Public Services spokesman Rick Tilton says some business owners did know about the change.

"We did brief some business owners on Gay Street; we briefed some business owners in the Short North," Tilton says. "So we have been briefing the business owners in areas where there's a lot of concern about this. But Barrio owner Jeff Mathes says he first heard about the increase only a week ago - one business day before the new rates took effect.

Businesses in the Short North were in the dark about the new rates, too, says John Angelo, executive director of the Short North Business Association. That is until he asked for and received a meeting with city officials about a month ago.

"We learned about the rate increases through the media," Angelo says. "And we immediately began asking for a conversation with the city. We thought that was going to be a dialogue but as it turns out it was more a sharing of the fait accompli - you know, 'this is what we are doing.'"

A spokesman for Columbus City Council said members are concerned about the "unilateral decision" made by Public Services. John Ivanic says council wants the city to speed up the transition from coin operated parking meters to ones that accept credit cards.

In the meantime, Jeff Mathes says he'll help subsidize parking for lunch-time diners at his restaurant during the month of December.

"While we try to fight that fight at City Hall, basically we're giving our customers a dollar in quarters every time they make a reservation here for lunch. [We'll] basically subsidize their parking because we don't feel that they should be footing the bill," Mathes says.