Officials from the Memphis Zoo and the Overton Park Conservancy have been working since January on compromises to alleviate parking woes in Overton Park.
The Memphis City Council is readying an ordinance to set in legal stone whatever comes from the mediation talks between the Memphis Zoo and the Overton Park Conservancy (OPC).
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland gave the two parties until June 30 to reach a compromise on the zoo’s use of the Overton Park Greensward for overflow parking.
A Friday statement from council chairman Kemp Conrad said that the council is taking that deadline seriously and is preparing an ordinance to set into city law whatever the two parties decide upon.
An ordinance is only approved in Memphis after it is heard before the city council three times. So, it takes a city law at least a month and half (depending on meeting dates) to make its way through the council’s legislative process.
The “ordinance defining uses for Overton Park” is slated to be discussed during the council’s executive session on Tuesday, May 3 at 2:45 p.m. The council could decide to send the measure to the full council for a vote Tuesday (thus, starting the ordinance through the process) or wait until a future meeting.
So, the council has to get the ordinance on its schedule soon to be ready to meet the deadline for the mediation discussions. Conrad said Friday that the ordinance will contain what the OPC and the zoo come up with at the end of its mediation.
"We fully expect the ordinance to be amended by third reading to reflect the compromise reached by the parties in a way that is best for park users, the zoo, and the great city of Memphis,” Conrad said in the statement.
Given that the zoo and OPC have not yet formally stated their final compromises on parking, the council may not have a lot to discuss about the issue on Tuesday.
Conrad said Friday “the council is very optimistic about the results that are coming out of the mediation and fully expects a parking outcome and compromise that meets the needs of park users and the zoo.”
Strickland announced Thursday that the mediation discussion have already yielded two plans that could create 325 new parking spaces for zoo visitors in the zoo’s existing lot and along North Parkway.
Conrad called those plans “major breakthroughs” and are only “an indication of what is to come" and said the council is especially appreciative of “[FedEx executive] Richard Smith’s work to find reasonable common sense solutions.”