By: Benjamin J. Gohs, Associate Editor
The Boyne City Commission voted unanimously during its regular Tuesday Sept. 27, meeting to send the parking ordinance proposal back to city planners for another look.[private]
Citing what they felt was not a thorough enough proposa, the commission denied the request of planners to effectively reduce the required amount of parking on new developments by nearly 20 percent.
“I think a comprehensive look is more needed, and I don’t think time is an issue,” Boyne City Mayor Chuck Vondra said, adding that there are tools in place to deal with issues which may arise.
Boyne City Planning Director Scott McPherson came to the board for the second reading the proposed ordinance changes.
“It talks a lot about all requirements for parking,” McPherson said. “We tried to clarify it and making all the language consistent. Some regulations are so many parking spaces for hundred square feet; some regulations are so many parking spaces per thousand square feet; some are per seating capacity or occupancy; some are for number of employees. We tried to make that consistent in making it all so many spaces per hundred square feet of building.” he said, “What we also tried to do is uniformly reduce all the requirements and the logic for that was that we believe the current parking recruitments are established under peak demand usage for all those various land uses. And, while that may serve those businesses well on one or two days throughout the year, the majority of the time those properties parking areas are under-utilized.”
McPherson addressed Vondra’s concern from previous meetings that the proposed changes to the parking ordinance could have a negative effect on the amount of parking in Boyne City.
“There are other provisions in the ordinance that do allow the planning commission the ability to look at parking,” McPherson said. “There’s also tools to deal with people that, if they’re outside the central business district, to request relief through the zoning board of appeals.”
He added, “In recognition of … the costs associated with trying to develop underutilized parking areas and associated costs of having excess pavement … we tried to reduce those.”
Jim Baumann said it is significant that the planning commission has studied this issue and made the recommendation.
“It was mentioned at the last public hearing a couple weeks ago the sea of asphalt problem and I think that’s something we want to avoid in our community,” Baumann said. “I think it was mentioned that Glen’s (Markets) if they went in today they would have to put in three times as much parking.”
He added, “I’ve never gone to Glen’s, even on the Fourth of July or some big holiday when I’ve not been able to find a parking place.”
Baumann said making those requirements more reasonable will be just one more enticement for businesses to locate in Boyne City.
“As far as the downtown goes I think the DDA has been able to keep ahead of those problems,” he said. “And, it has the ability to do more if necessary.”
Boyne City Planning Commission Chairman Tom Neidhammer said the goal of the planning commission is to continuously look at ordinances to ensure they are simple, clear and most beneficial to the city.
“That’s kind of how it came about,” he said. “The parking ordinance, we thought, needed some clarification.”
Boyne City Commissioner Laura Sansom said the proposed changes seemed quite logical.
“Getting back to our number one goal of job retention and job creation, I think this goes a long ways as far as simplifying the process and making it easier to understand,” Boyne City Commissioner Ron Grunch said. “One of the things I really like about it is we’re working in the square footage rather than proposed jobs because there’s no crystal ball in this economic environment that we can nail down how many jobs you’re going to create.”
The proposed changes would have affected only the central business district – and that was one of the apparent sticking points for Vondra and even Grunch.
“I think there’s still some kinks that need to be worked out,” Grunch said.
Towne said he really doesn’t believe there is a parking problem in town.
“I also believe the tools we have in place right now are working,” he said.
Vondra then read a letter from Boyne City resident Marty Moody who referenced the referendum on parking in years past which showed the majority of residents were concerned about not having enough parking spaces in town.
“I am seriously concerned that you would so blatantly go against your constituents – all 86 percent of them. It has been opined that the referendum vote was just a vote against the development (One Water Street) and that was why people voted the way they did. I sincerely disagree,” Moody stated. “The people knew that, if a development of the scale that was proposed went in without required amount of parking, it would have adversely affected the downtown businesses.”
He added, “In the end, the developers had to pull the reins back a considerable amount and ultimately could not build on every inch of the property which in turn gave us the project that we settled upon.”
Moody stated the only reason to adjust parking in town would be to “try and slip something through.”
“This current commission has done a great job in making sure that some of the sneaky deals of the past 10 to 15 years did not continue to happen,” Moody stated. “Now we are facing another changing of the guard and it is a perfect time to try to slide a fast one past this great community.”
Moody said the current parking regulation was a needed “check and balance” to help ensure new developments are appropriate for Boyne City.
Vondra said trying to get a parking spot downtown during the busy season is difficult.
“This last two weekends, alone, if you walk downtown, which I did, there are notes on certain cars about how long they’ve been parked there and why they are parked there from business owners, so there’s just a little bit of an issue there,” he said. “I think the busiest street in town is always busy, which is a great thing.”
According to Vondra, there are 574 parking spaces downtown including the Fotchman lot in a 500-foot radius around Water Street. There are 361 private parking spots in that area.
Vondra said the Fotchman lot is temporary, and one of the most prime pieces of real-estate in downtown Boyne City.
Also up for a second reading was the proposed amendment to the accessory building section of the zoning ordinance.
“It’s probably one of the most referred to ordinances we have and it’s also one of the most confusing and contradictory that we have to deal with and it’s very difficult to explain to folks,” McPherson said. “In recognition of that fact we went through and tried to simplify it without changing, substantially, any of the requirements on where or how big accessory buildings can be put in.”
It is now a one-page document which has been streamlined for ease of understanding.
The change was unanimously approved.[/private]