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New parking meters pop up on Rainey Street

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The trendy Rainey Street area is getting more popular all the time. And now, you pay to park there.

The Austin Transportation Department says it helps with parking turnover.

"That means people have a chance to have a turn to come down and park, conduct business, visit friends, visit the restaurants or the cocktail lounges that are there as opposed to somebody coming down there, parking and just staying all day long," said Gary Schatz.

Iliana De La Vega, part owner of El Naranjo says it makes finding a spot easier.

"I had a few customers that were like 'It's great! I didn't have a problem parking!' So it's working, I think it's working," De La Vega said.

But Stuart Thompson with Icenhauer's has mixed emotions.

"I know it's for the better and they're using the money to kind of improve the neighborhood a little bit. But at the same time, after being here for a couple of years and being able to park freely and do that kind of thing, it's kind of a disappointment to see. You know I've got to pay and I might get a ticket," Thompson said.

Ian Stonington is on the board of directors for the Rainey Street Neighbors Association.

The group supports the paid parking and it also supports "conditional use" -- something that would prevent the area from essentially becoming 6th Street "part 2"...full of bars.

"We've researched up to 30 new properties that are not yet bars that could become bars. So the argument in the city is 'Oh, the horse is out of the barn, it's too late!' But we want to set this precedent and also let the future property owners and the bar owners know that there's at least 30 other properties that could become bars and we would like to see a variety of uses," Stonington said.

Thompson likes the idea as long as they don't make it too hard for a bar or two to come in.

De La Vega also welcomes some different business ideas. She says they are the only restaurant on the street right now.

"People don't want to come to a neighborhood that is only bars. They want to see more options so they can have a drink and they can have dinner or they can go and shop some things so if it would become more like a destination with many things I think it would be the best way to go," she said.

The conditional use measure was discussed at the city council meeting tonight and it did pass.

That means any new bars or cocktail lounges that want to come in will have to go to the planning commission for approval and they'll have a hearing on the matter.

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