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Rec center parking for Lambert students could end next year

A popular parking lot for students at Lambert High School might be going away next year.

At a recent work session, Forsyth County Commissioners voted 4-0, with District 1 Commissioner Pete Amos absent, to send back proposed fees for students parking at Old Atlanta Recreation Center to the county’s parks and recreation board that makes recommendations to the commissioners.

Commissioners said they have recently received complaints about the $300 per year price, which Parks Director Jim Pryor said was a change from most years.

“Until recently, nobody has ever complained about the cost of spaces to us,” Pryor said. “They actually say, ‘Thank you, bless you, for having them. My sophomore wouldn’t be able to drive to school without them when they turn 16 if you didn’t offer this service.’”

The county first allowed parking at 50 spaces in 2012 before an additional 30 were added in 2013. In 2015, the county approved increasing the total number of spaces to 100 for students as parking at the school was impacted by construction.

Pryor said the passes were previously given on a first-come, first-serve basis until students “camped out for days” to get a pass.

“That became such a disaster that we went by lottery,” Pryor said.

After trying the lottery system, the process changed to the school providing a list of 100 students pre-selected by the school for the parking spots. Pryor said no list was given this year.

“We opened it up March 1, did the lottery thing again,” Pryor said. “By the end of school, Memorial Day, we had sold 100 spots already.”

Pryor said the county refunded those who later received parking passes at the school, about 20 this year. He said there were a few remaining spaces but had sold two on Tuesday before the meeting.

“We’re still selling them and the demand is still there,” he said.

District 4 Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills said after speaking with school officials there might not be interest in allowing the students to use the parking in the future. She said potential issues with searches from the sheriff’s office and the school not allowing sophomores to drive were reasons given for ending the agreement.

District 5 Commissioner Laura Semanson said she did not like the fact that the county lot charged a higher rate than the school.

“I think the biggest problem that I see with it is we are treating the same set of taxpayers and homeowners differently,” she said. “If someone had been referred as recently as today … that means there is a need for additional parking.”

Discussion of the fees is on the parks and recreation board’s agenda for Wednesday.