ELKHART — The number of handicap parking spaces in downtown Elkhart may soon increase.
The city board of public works heard a proposal Tuesday, April 2, 2013, that would increase the number of parking spots by five.
All five parking spaces are located along side streets and close to South Main Street. The parking spaces that may soon be reserved for handicapped drivers or passengers are on Lexington Avenue, High Street, Division Street and State Street.
The decision to use side streets is because of angled parking that dominates much of Main Street in the downtown business district. If the handicap spaces were located along Main Street, the angled parking would necessitate additional spots be set aside to provide adequate space to get in and out of the vehicles, said Leslie Biek, an engineer for the city who oversees right of way issues.
Side streets in the downtown use parallel parking.
The board heard the proposal Tuesday, but delayed a final decision on the matter until more input could be sought. Business owners in the area have not yet been notified of the plan and officials want them to have a chance to provide their thoughts.
Faith Slayton, who often uses a walker, proposed a few months ago that the city expand the number of handicap space on Main Street. She said she was alerted ahead of time about the plan.
Slayton said she was not happy that officials chose to use side streets instead of Main Street, but added, “it’s better than nothing.”
Biek said the city is not required by law or guidelines under the Americans With Disabilities Act to expand the number of spaces, but said the expansion is “a good idea.”
According to a map provided by the city, there are 25 existing parking spaces reserved for handicapped parking spaces in the downtown.
In other news, the board heard of the city’s plan to pay the rent of an empty apartment in an apartment building that will soon be acquired by the city for the Prairie Street overpass project.
The move is an effort to ensure the property owner does not rent the apartment shortly before the ownership of the building is transferred. The apartment is located at 920 Prairie Street.
Paying the rent will be cheaper than providing relocation costs, officials said.
City engineer Mike Machlan estimated the city expects to pay rent for about two months or until the city finalizes the purchase.
The city will only pay the rent until the acquisition is complete. The existing tenants, though, can remain in their apartments for an unspecified time after the acquisition.
Officials hope to begin construction on the overpass early next year, but much of the property being acquired for the work will be cleared far ahead of time.