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Ashland Town Council has deferred action on Randolph-Macon College’s parking plan until July, citing concerns over the college’s elimination of some on-street parking and with students parking vehicles off-campus in residential neighborhoods.
The last parking plan for Randolph-Macon was approved in 2009. The town’s ordinance requires .8 parking spaces per enrolled student. Once that threshold is exceeded, the college has to submit a new plan.
According to materials the college filed with the town, fall enrollment at R-MC was 1,314 and the college has 330 full-time employees that also require parking. Combined, Randolph-Macon would need 1,381 spaces to accommodate its current student body and staff. The college submitted an amended plan with 1,499 spaces, which will accommodate 1,461 students en route to the college’s enrollment goal of 1,500. When the college surpasses its current capacity, it will have to update its plan again.
The plan submitted by R-MC reflected dropping 10 on-street spaces in front of Brock Commons, a move that Thomas Dwyer, director of operations and physical plant, explained was a way to better showcase the new, multimillion-dollar facility.
“That’s a lovely thought, but in a town where parking is already an issue, I’m not sure that I can concede that one,” said Mayor Faye Prichard.
Nora Amos, director of planning and community development, said R-MC’s plan could be amended if the elimination of spots in front of Brock Commons becomes an issue.
Dwyer later added that eliminating parking in front of the student center would also increase line-of-sight, thereby improving safety on campus.
Prichard said her general notion would be not to give up parking places “just to show off a building,” but she understood that the measure could also improve safety in the heart of the smalltown campus and requested more information.
“I’m not quite ready to say I’m done with those spaces forever,” she said.
Prichard also raised concerns with R-MC students parking in neighborhoods bordering the campus.
Students are required to register their vehicle with the college. Last year, approximately 69 percent of the student body registered a car with the college. However, Prichard said students parking off-campus is an “ongoing” problem.
“We’ve had some problems with students not getting the stickers and parking out in the neighborhoods,” Prichard said. “If we catch a student doing that, what happens?”
Ashland Police Chief Douglas Goodman said his department can only enforce town parking violations, such as parking in a no-parking zone or too close to an intersection, adding that the college’s campus safety office handles student-related parking violations.
“As long as it’s legally parked by town code, there’s very little our Ashland police officers do to police that on a town street,” Goodman said.
Vice-mayor George Spagna, who had abstained from participating in the discussion because of his college ties, said it is a violation of the college’s code of student conduct for students who drive on campus to not register their vehicles.
Prichard reiterated that she gets a fair amount of complaints about students taking Ashland residents’ parking spaces.
“I have to think about folks who are just trying to get their neighbors and their guests to park in front of their houses,” she said.
Town Council will take up the Randolph-Macon parking plan when they meet Tuesday.