Champaign may change rules on parking-lot behavior

Champaign may change rules on parking-lot behavior

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CHAMPAIGN — There aren't rules on the city's books about prohibited activities in city-owned parking lots and metered spaces, but that could be changing soon.

The Champaign City Council plans to vote Tuesday on creating formal guidelines for what people can't do in those areas. Included in the proposal is mainly anything that's not related to parking, such as alcohol consumption, gambling, littering and selling products or services.

Kris Koester, Champaign's administrative services manager, said city staff realized the city code currently lacks that kind of language. Staff currently use their best judgment if a parking lot activity issue comes up, he said.

"We can tell there's things that have happened on weekends because there's stuff for us to clean up when we go through the parking lot ... mostly on Monday mornings," Koester said. "We'll find piles of garbage or bags of garbage left behind."

But it's not just an issue of cleanliness. This vote is coming at the beginning of summer, a time when the city typically sees a spike in violence. Champaign Police Chief Anthony Cobb announced last week that a community action team of officers will be focusing on the downtown area this summer during Friday and Saturday nights.

Two days after he briefed Community Coalition members of the department's plans, his officers responded to a pair of shooting incidents in the city — near Third and Hill streets about 7:54 p.m. Friday and near Beardsley Park less than two hours later.

And early on a Saturday morning last June, gunfire outside crowded downtown bars led to calls for a greater law enforcement presence by some business owners and patrons.

Champaign councilman Tom Bruno said Tuesday's vote is partially tied to violence concerns.

"I think we all consider our successful downtown to be a really wonderful asset, but ... in the past couple of years, we've had a few bad incidents," he said. "If somebody is killed downtown, it could rapidly collapse all of our success."

If the guidelines are approved, Koester said the plan is to have them posted on signs in a month.

"This change requires a parking enforcement officer or law enforcement officer to verbally request that an individual cease any nonparking activity before taking any enforcement action," according to a city staff report.

City-owned parking lots are occasionally used for purposes other than parking. Downtown's Walnut Street lot was the site of a small memorial service last August after Terry Moore Jr. was fatally shot there.

Koester said the city would still accept special event permit applications for nonparking purposes that aren't prohibited under the guidelines.