Local News

Committee Discusses Handicapped Parking In Raleigh's Downtown

Posted February 16, 2006 7:37 a.m. EST

— A Raleigh city committee is leaning toward raising public awareness in response to local business owners' allegations that some motorists are abusing handicapped parking privileges in downtown.

The Downtown Raleigh Alliance is lobbying for changes to the state law that allows cars with disabled parking placards to park in 15- and 30-minute parking zones for as long as they want.

"We certainly want to do what we can to make things good for everybody," said James Benton, chairman of the Mayor's Committee for Persons with Disabilities.

As a result of a WRAL investigation, Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker asked the committee to look into business owners' complaints and by the end of March come up with a solution that is fair for all motorists.

"The only people who would be upset by changes are the people who are abusing the law," said Stephen Stockwell, who will chair a public access committee that will further investigate the issue.

State Sen. Janet Cowell said Thursday she is willing to lobby to get the law changed.

"Part of the role of legislators is looking at other downtowns around the country, understand what is working so we don't reinvent the wheel," Cowell said.

But some people believe WRAL's report has also raised awareness on an even bigger issue in downtown -- the need for designated handicapped spots.

"The issue is lack of accessible parking," said Mark Ezzell, who is disabled. "If there was another car here, there is no way I could squeeze in."

Another option offered Thursday was to ask the city and county to offer free handicapped parking in garages.