Village parking: P&Z will have another look

Parking remains a concern in village, and the Planning and Zoning Commission has agreed to take another look at the regulations. An initial discussion is planned for next Tuesday, June 4.

The commission has been asked to consider bringing back the concept that the type and size of businesses permitted in a commercial building — retail shops, offices, restaurants — should be limited by the amount of parking on the parcel the building is built on.

The commission will delve into the subject at the request of Parking Authority members, who worry that the loosening of the parking rules back in 2010 may have led to a proliferation of businesses, such as restaurants, that have large numbers of employees as well customers who stay for extended period of time — putting strains on the roughly 1,200 spaces available for parking in the village’s Central Business District (CBD).

“What’s happened is employee parking became a major problem in the CBD,” said Parking Authority member Jessica Wilmot, who owns the Ancient Mariner.

Before 2010, parking in the village had been governed much as it is elsewhere in town, with both the type and size of businesses permitted in a commercial building related to the number of parking space on a property.

But in 2010 those elaborate parking regulations were lifted in the village. The thinking at the time was that as an older business center, with several large parking lots and nice sidewalks, the village would invite people who would park once and then walk around — shopping, eating lunch, visiting offices, going to the library or the movies.

“It’s been nine years since that decision was put into effect,” said Parking Authority member Ellen Burns, who own the Main Street shop Books on The Common. “The restrictions were lifted for probably good reason. The assumption was there’d be shared parking — restaurants in the evening, shops and offices in the day.”

But there’ve been other changes since 2010, when the village parking rules were loosened.

A major one is that the business environment for shops and stores has gotten tougher due to increasing competition from online retailers.

Restaurants are businesses that need a lot of parking for employees and customers, but they don’t have to worry about online competition — which may help explain why they seem to have proliferated in recent years.

In any case, there’s a concern that restaurants will fill up all the parking and hurt the shops.

“Restaurants are not in competition with the Internet,” Burns said. “The rest of retail is.”

At the end of the discussion, Chairwoman Rebecca Mucchetti agreed to put a reconsideration of village parking on a future agenda — and it was later scheduled for the commission’s June 4 meeting in the town hall annex.

“I don’t think anyone on the commission has any objection to this,” Mucchetti said. “If we did change our regulations, there would be a public hearing. We’ll take it up.”