Since the dawn of the automobile, parking along the narrow Main Street of Madison has been in short supply. The main drag is characterized by businesses on both sides of a narrow passage frequently used by larger vehicles traveling south from Rt. 231 to Rt. 29. Since the beginning of 2021, the parking situation has been the primary issue facing the Madison Town Council.
The issue of parked vehicles and visibility was raised by a town resident in 2018 who was concerned about large trucks parked in front of Virginia Herd Health Management blocking the view of oncoming traffic. Earlier this year those concerns resurfaced, this time by clients and staff members of the Madison Free Clinic who are focused on the vehicles in front of BulletProof Madison located at 121 N. Main Street.
Former director of the free clinic Brenda Clements addressed her concerns at the February regular meeting asking the council to develop a parking ordinance to resolve parking issues with the neighboring business BulletProof.
The request opened up a firestorm of controversy with supporters of BulletProof accusing Clements of having political motivations and other community members expressing concern over signage on the BulletProof building. The conflict carried over to the March 4 council meeting with BulletProof representatives expressing concern that the business was being unfairly singled out for political reasons.
Community members have expressed concern for the safety of both pedestrians and motorists leaving the clinic because visibility is blocked by parked vehicles in front of BulletProof. Last summer, Clements inquired about who bears responsibility for parking enforcement and appealed to both VDOT and law enforcement. After a site visit, VDOT put “No Parking” signs on the western side of the street between the clinic and the crosswalk. Despite the signage, BulletProof owner Josh Phillips and his customers continue to park there which according to Clements creates a hazard for drivers and pedestrians leaving the clinic. When she appealed to law enforcement, the Virginia State Police told her it wasn’t their jurisdiction and the Madison County Sheriff’s Office refused to enforce parking regulations without an ordinance.
In March, Madison Mayor Willie Lamar read a letter from Madison County Sheriff Erik Weaver asking the Madison County Board of Supervisors and town council to contact the Virginia Department of Transportation Resident Engineer to request additional no parking signs along Main Street. Sheriff Weaver’s request is for no parking signs to extend north from the courthouse to the Madison Eagle office at 201 N. Main St. and for the town to create a towing ordinance which would allow law enforcement to tow vehicles parked within the zone. Weaver has recommended the towing fee be no greater than $750 per towing. Council decided to further discuss the issue during the April 1 meeting and asked the BulletProof supporters to advise Phillips to attend the meeting.
Jana Jackson, interim executive director of the Madison Free Clinic and Linda Martin, a real estate agent based in the Montague Miller buildin,g reported to council that the situation had improved. Jackson had been able to establish a less contentious relationship with Phillips and had asked that he not park directly in front of the building to which he had complied. Jackson and Martin reported that it had helped the visibility problem although BulletProof customers were still using the space. Phillips and his supporters were not present.
“It’s been much better,” said Jackson. “Josh has agreed to not park in front of the door but clearly no one sees the ‘no parking’ sign as people park there all the time.”
The council decided to move forward with a parking ordinance and asked town attorney Maynard Sipe to draft the proposed ordinance along with Sheriff Weaver’s towing guidelines.
Vice mayor Nancy Knighting also suggested that the town look into placing planters in the no parking areas throughout the town, and suggested that a planter in front of BulletProof would also serve to protect the building from being driven in to, a concern voiced by Phillips and his tenant at the two prior meetings.
Lamar requested that Sipe follow the Sheriff’s direction in writing the ordinance with a preference for towing over ticketing offenders.