A blue handicap tag is not the only way to score a prime parking spot at the Main Library on Goodwood Boulevard.
Special parking spots for visitors driving fuel-efficient and high-occupancy vehicles have set off a debate over the library’s newly opened parking lot and eco-friendly measures.
Metro Councilman Ryan Heck sparked a string of comments this weekend when he posted comments about the low-emission spots on his Facebook page, calling them unenforceable and unfair. More than 125 comments followed his post, several of which were from Library Board members and others in government circles.
“Poor folks, who drive around in a 1984 Cutlass Supreme, have to take the spots farthest from the library,” Heck wrote on his Facebook page. “Meanwhile, a 25 year old millennial that’s sporting the latest and greatest hybrid plug-in smart car that runs on unicorn milk gets the prime spots.”
But library officials say the 21 parking spots for fuel-efficient vehicles and 21 spots for high-occupancy vehicles are part of their Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification. The parking lot has more than 300 parking spaces total, 18 of which are for handicapped clients and 42 of which are specially designated eco-spots that encourage people to carpool or drive low-emission vehicles.
The move comes as agencies across the nation jump on board with green initiatives. Assistant Library Director for Administrative Services Mary Stein said several states, excluding Louisiana, require government buildings to be sustainable and meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification.
Stein and Library Director Spencer Watts said visitors don’t need a Toyota Prius or a hybrid to use the spots. Nearly 2,000 vehicles fit the bill according to their list — among them are a 2005 Toyota Corolla, a 2006 Honda Civic, a 2012 Nissan Rogue and 2014 Range Rover Evoque.
Heck downgraded his tone on Monday, saying the Facebook conversation that sparked more than 120 comments was “dripping with sarcasm.”
Library officials acknowledged that enforcing the eco-friendly parking spots is nearly impossible, but they said that’s not the point. Watts said they simply wanted to provide a minor reward for people who purchase environmentally friendly vehicles.
“The eco-police are not going to be out there ticketing people,” Stein said.
Stein and Watts pointed to other environmentally friendly steps they took when building the $35 million library that have not garnered so much attention and possible backlash.
Some include a device that catches rainwater from the roof to sprinkle onto plants, and another prevents runoff water in the parking lot. The library’s hot water use is controlled and its lights are automatic, which are adjustments everyone is getting accustomed to, Watts said.
Still, Heck maintained that special parking spots are over the top and added that his problems with the city’s library system run deeper than painted cement.
He said the library should lower its millage in next year’s tax elections because it already has so much money, a sentiment Councilman Buddy Amoroso also chimed in on with the Facebook thread.
The library system receives all of its money from a dedicated property tax, which Baton Rouge voters approve every 10 years. The tax will go up for renewal again next year.
Heck said other falling-apart Baton Rouge institutions deserve some of the money that the library has been collecting for dozens of years.
Editor’s note: This article was changed on Tuesday, Dec. 16, to delete a sentence about Heck removing his Facebook post. Heck changed his account settings so the post was only visible to his Facebook friends.