By: Benjamin J. Gohs, Associate Editor
Boyne City’s mayor and planner disagree over the impact changes to the current parking ordinance may have.
The public will soon have an opportunity to opine on the proposal to reduce the number of required parking spaces at new developments or existing businesses which intend to make certain changes.
“The proposed amendments to this (zoning ordinance) would focus in specifically on the required parking for a variety of uses,” said Boyne City Planning Director Scott McPherson. “What we attempted to do here was reduce that because we’re coming from the point of view that these numbers based on the Institute of Traffic Engineers peak demand parking requirements are basically too high.”
McPherson said the models are developed by looking at a single use during peak demand. “They don’t consider pedestrian access, transit access, location, multiple uses,” he said. “By using peak demand, sure it may be the value that use may need on that one day, but the typical demand is usually much less.” McPherson added, “So, what you see is a lot of commercial uses with overdeveloping the amount of on-site parking requirements.”
According to McPherson, the proposed ordinance change would reduce parking space requirements by approximately 20 percent. Boyne City Mayor Chuck Vondra mentioned a referendum regarding parking which was undertaken during the One Water Street development proposal period.
“I think that parking issue was brought to the forefront as one of the many issues that people had with that particular project and I think that was one that was focused on that could be used to defeat that project, quite frankly,” McPherson said. “I don’t know if parking was ever the major issue with that particular project.”
Vondra countered, “I would disagree with that. That’s not my recollection.”
Boyne City Manager Michael Cain said the change would only affect future projects and those projects which may intend to make “significant changes.” “This is not retroactive,” he said. “Those requirements stay until there’s some significant change, and then we take it back to the planning commission.” Vondra said he is nervous about making the change.
“I recall being the only dissenting vote when it came to that issue last time and it was a parking issue,” he said. “I remember very vividly and clearly, and we have since developed temporary parking lots through funding of general fund money.” Vondra added, “My concern is that, if we go through with this, the city’s going to be required to develop more parking downtown. That’s how this is going to play out in my opinion – that there is not going to be enough parking downtown.”
Boyne Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jim Baumann disagreed with Vondra’s assessment.
“I think we’ve been pretty good in this town about providing enough offsite parking,” Baumann said. “And, to strengthen our central business district, especially, we’ve got here and there vacant lots that are essentially used as parking lots between buildings.” He added, “In the central business district, you’d rather have those filled by actual businesses and make the employees park offsite.” Baumann said there may be solutions in the future if parking becomes an issue.
“We can act in other ways, if necessary, through the DDA and their funding mechanisms to add additional parking if we need it,” he said. “Right now it seems like it’s working pretty well.”
Boyne City Commissioner Laura Sansom said she, too, feels there is plenty of parking. “I’m just of the mindset that I think there’s enough parking if people want to seek it out,” she said. “I think it’s an asset to change these numbers.”
Boyne City Commissioner Mike Cummings said, “I think we’re headed for another showdown on the parking issue.”
Cummings noted a study completed during the One Water Street development which showed the city had roughly 1,300 parking spaces. “This city spent an awful lot of money counting the traffic for the spaces,” he said. “We went through a design period downtown where we tried to squeeze more cars than was physically safe. We had to repaint the entire downtown to do it.” Cummings asked if this move was merely to appease new developments in the area.
Vondra said, if anything, he felt the new developments would want more, and not less, parking area. “It should also be noted in the central business district the ordinance allows the planning commission to review, reduce or eliminate completely the parking requirements for any new use,” McPherson said. “So, that tool is already there.”
Vondra asked why the changes were necessary, then.
McPherson said the Glen’s Markets parking lot is a great example.
“If you wanted to build that facility today, you’d have to have about a 350 parking spots. You’ve got about 140 there right now,” McPherson said. “You’d have to have an additional two acres of asphalt to develop that particular development.”
He added, “Everyone focuses on the downtown – that’s important – but also we don’t want to develop seas of asphalt where they’re not needed. We’re not eliminating parking, we’re reducing it.”
McPherson said a study completed in 2008-2009 showed on-site parking lot spaces were used only 30 percent of the time on average.
“It looks like those were being underutilized,” he said.
Vondra said this would be a “hard sell” for him. “I remember it was 81 percent of people that disagreed with this,” he added. Cain said the proposed ordinance changes will now go to a public hearing. “I think you should take it to the next level and get the public involved,” he said.
The public hearing will be held on Tuesday Sept. 27 at City Hall.