Village parking: What will become of the rules?

Village parking used to be highly regulated — rules, numbers, specifics. Should the town go back to that? The Parking Authority is wondering.

Parking in the village has been more loosely governed since 2010, when a new philosophy was introduced by the Planning and Zoning Commission.

With over 1,000 parking spaces, and hodge-podge of stores and shops and other destinations connected by sidewalks, the village was seen then as a place where parking could be shared. Customers could park, go to a store, walk to a restaurant for lunch — perhaps stopping in some other shops on the way — maybe head down to the library for the afternoon. And, after all that, return to the car they’d parked that morning.

Unless they parked in a timed spot, where there was a chance of getting a ticket. These rules weren’t about time limits, tickets, and enforcement officers — the Parking Authority’s world. They were about how much parking is needed to reasonably support each use in a building — Planning and Zoning Commission stuff.

Now, in 2019, the Parking Authority wants to get on the Planning and Zoning Commission’s agenda, sit down and have a discussion.

The authority is not, members say, advocating a return to the old days of tight rules and regulations in what the zoning folks call the Central Business District or “CBD zone.” But maybe it’s worth a look — or a little discussion.

“We are not proposing ‘bringing back’ the parking regulations in the CBD, per se,” Parking Authority member Ellen Burns told The Press.

“We want the P&Z to take a look at the impact of the change they made in 2010 to see if it is working as they intended, what the impact has been on the off-street parking situation in the CBD, and if they would consider revising 7.3.C (1) [zoning regulations] to reflect what the Parking Authority sees as some major problems,” Burns said. “We’re raising the issue for their review and consideration.”

The section of the zoning regulations she references — the esteemed “7.3.C.(1)” — says:

“Parking in CBD Zone.

“Due to the high level of pedestrian activity and the multi-purpose nature of trips in the CBD zone, the following parking requirements shall apply:

“(a) For a change of use within an existing building in the CBD zone, there shall be no additional off-street parking required.

“(b) For the expansion or new construction of a building (including appurtenant structures) in the CBD zone, the number of required parking spaces shall be reduced to sixty percent (60%) of the requirement specified in 7.3.B.”

Types of buildings, uses

So what does 7.3.B say?

Well, it’s a couple of pages long, setting out specific parking rules for some 20 different types of buildings — or “uses,” as the zoning crowd calls them.

For examples, have a look:

“Unless modified as provided in this Section, off-street parking spaces shall be established and maintained for every use of land, buildings or structures based upon the following schedule of minimum requirements:

“Retail stores, banks, service establishment: 4.25 spaces per 1,000 square feet of gross floor area on the first floor, plus 3.4 spaces per 1,000 square feet of gross floor area on each upper floor

“Restaurants, taverns, bars, nightclubs, dance halls: 15.0 spaces per 1,000 square feet of gross floor area…

“General business offices: 3.4 spaces per 1,000 square feet of gross floor area.

“Medical and Dental offices: 4.9 spaces per 1,000 square feet of gross floor area.

“Real estate office: 4.25 spaces per 1,000 square feet of gross floor area.”

Not everything, though, is based on the “1,000 square feet of gross floor space” standard.

Consider: “Theater, auditorium, places of worship: One space for each four seats based on maximum capacity, to be provided within 500 feet of the building; or if in a residence district, on the same lot with the building.”

Restaurants

Most everything is fewer than five spaces per 1,000 square feet of floor area — except for restaurants, which are three times that.

And what’s the village been filling up with these last several years?

The rules-and-regulations approach would create a more complex world for a landlord wanting to rent a closed store as a former real estate office, or convert a shop to a restaurant. A more complex reality, also, for a property owner wanting to build — though there’s not much room for building in the village.

But for a resident coming downtown to do some shopping, and maybe catch lunch, the challenge would still be finding a spot, and — if it’s one patrolled by the Parking Authority’s enforcement agents — getting back before it’s ticket time.

New parking lot

What may be good news: The town is planning to build a new lot for another 60 or so cars on the fringe of the village — north of Governor, south of Prospect, east of Bailey. The plan’s being reworked, and still needs to go through the usual gauntlet of approvals — Planning and Zoning Commission, Inland Wetlands Board.

But the money’s there — voters approved $570,000 for the new parking lot at last May’s budget referendum.

With the money done, it’s only a matter of time.

Hopes are it’ll get built later this summer, or in the fall. Spring 2020 is the fall back.

And this lot is envisioned as “all day” parking.

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