By Raymond Brewer-Posey
Opinion staff writer
UNC Asheville’s renovation of Highsmith Student Union and the construction of new residence halls proves to be a factor in the major on-campus parking issues affecting nonresident students, faculty and staff.
“The best place for new construction is a place that has already been developed and those are generally parking lots,” said Eric Boyce, assistant vice chancellor for public safety at UNCA.
The construction of new residence halls, ideally, will allow more students to be housed on campus. This comes at the expense of convenient parking for nonresident students and faculty members who commute by car.
According to the university’s construction update page, parking lots P21, P22 and P23 were removed for the purposes of the new residence halls. Given the finite space available on campus, additional construction must take the place of something else, Boyce said.
“The easiest solution is to build more parking, but when we look at building parking that costs money. It’s a very expensive proposition so you have to decide: do you want your green spaces or do you want parking lots?” Boyce said.
In the past, more parking spaces were lost to construction than in the current project. The construction of Zeis Hall and the construction of the Sherrill Center took more parking away at the time of construction, Boyce said.
Some tentative solutions have been posed in an attempt to accommodate for the amount of nonresident students on campus during the day. On Oct. 2, Boyce sent out an email to the campus community with details on new parking arrangements.
“Parking lots P1 and P2 will be reallocated as nonresident student parking lots from 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday,” Boyce said.
The new parking arrangement will allow nonresident students and resident students to share lots P1 and P2 depending on the time of day, according to Boyce.
“Resident students may park in parking lots P1 and P2 from 5:00 p.m. until 7:30 a.m., Monday through Friday and on weekends, holidays and campus breaks. Resident student parking during construction will be in P29 and P31, in addition to P3 and P4,” Boyce said.
For some faculty members, the parking issue is much more noticeable this time. According to Dean Brock, professor of computer science at UNCA, parking on campus seems to be directly impacted by construction.
“The construction is kind of unprecedented. I think it’s only going to get worse when they start the renovation (on Carmichael). I’ve been here for a long time and I’ve never come across a situation where there is so many projects going on at the same time. Parking was never really that abundant in the first place but this is certainly worse,” Brock said.
The implications of the issue extend beyond trouble finding convenient parking. Students and faculty alike have had to adjust their habits or change them altogether to accommodate the decrease in available parking.
“I think that there are some people that are doing things like coming in really early to get around it. But I think practically everyone has changed what they are doing. Unless they happen to always come in at seven in the morning,” Brock said.
Some students choose to forgo driving to campus altogether in an attempt to avoid the parking predicament.
“I stopped driving here and started walking. I decided it was easier to keep my car at my apartment and just walk,” said Sebastian Pennacchio, a junior biology student from Yonkers, New York.
The parking issue is especially impactful for professors who bring materials with them to class.
“I talked to somebody who brings in a bunch of books every day and it’s hard for him because he has to park down the hill,” Brock said. “I used to bring stuff from home, but you know, I just won’t do that now. I may come in during the weekend but it’s definitely an inconvenience.”
Despite the recent loss of parking spots, Boyce said resident students will regain some parking soon.
“I want to remind resident students that the loss of parking spaces behind Founders Hall is temporary and will return to resident student parking once the construction is complete in fall 2018,” Boyce said, via an email to the campus community.