By Michael Howell
The Town Council received a long awaited report by from the Parking Committee that analyzes the Town’s parking policies and availability of parking along with recommendations for short term and long term parking needs.
The committee identified businesses located within the area of focus, which includes Main Street, Church Street and Buck Street from the Eastside Highway to Fourth Street, all zoned for commercial use. They also identified the number of employees at each business. They then determined the amount of parking spaces needed according to formulas borrowed from the Hamilton Parking Ordinance and the Parking Handbook for Small Communities 1994 edition. They surveyed the amount of parking already being provided by the businesses.
What they discovered, according to the report, is that of the 651 parking spaces identified, 165 were not yet developed, leaving 486 developed parking spaces within the area. When they crunched all the numbers it became evident that there were probably sufficient parking spaces in the downtown area to meet the needs of a community this size. Research also indicated that it was not a good idea to have too many excess parking spaces, nor was it encouraged to use Main Street commercial space for parking. But the parking should not be too far from the Main Street commercial businesses either.
The Town’s current regulations do not require buildings less than 2000 square feet to provide parking, but this was identified as a potential problem at times, such as during busy restaurant hours. But to force the businesses to provide parking could also be problematic. It could create a checkerboard of parking in the downtown, which has been shown to be undesirable to pedestrians. It would also limit how many businesses could occupy the core area. And then there is the expense. As an alternative the report recommends looking one block off of Main Street for future parking space development.
The committee examined several potential places on Buck and Church streets for potential future parking development, although Klaphake noted that would take money and the source of the funds should be considered.
On the other hand, committee member Michael Sharkey noted that, “The solutions will never be easier or less expensive than they are today.”
In the next five years the report recommends striping the Town Hall parking lot, paving the west side of Church Street from 1st to 2nd streets, reviewing the development codes regarding exceptions to off street parking, review the parking regulations for relevancy, developing/promoting private off street parking for public use, and review and update of parking needs every five years.
The 6 to 10 year recommendations include developing pathways from Church to Buck to better access street parking, developing an open area available for event parking at the north end of Main Street, developing RV and truck/trailer parking on Buck Street, promoting bicycle use in town, developing a centrally located parking lot off Main Street which businesses would pay for to meet their building’s parking requirements, developing 100 new parking spaces within 300 feet of walking distance from Main Street and developing RV camper parking/event parking between Church and College south of the Eastside Highway.
The ad hoc committee that studied the parking situation in Stevensville was formed in cooperation with the Main Street Association and included a cross section of community members. Copies of the report are available at the Town Hall.
The Town of Stevensville has officially announced its intent to establish the Stevensville Airport Targeted Economic Development District (TEDD) and adopt the related Comprehensive Development Plan with a tax increment financing program. A public hearing has been scheduled for Thursday, November 21 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.
Councilor Ron Klaphake, who serves on the Airport Advisory Board, said that the Town had prepared the way for adoption of the ordinance that would create the TEDD by already annexing the airport land into the town and identifying deficiencies in infrastructure that could be addressed with funds generated by a tax increment financing program which allows newly generated tax revenue from within the district to be used for such purposes. This will become really important, according to Klaphake, as the time approaches for a major runway restoration project scheduled for around 2016. The money could also be used to develop the infrastructure required to attract new value-added industry to the airport area.
In other business the Town Council:
• confirmed the Mayor’s appointment of Clay Freeman as Chaplain for the Stevensville Police Department and the Stevensville Fire Department;
• approved selling as surplus the SPD Ford Taurus and the Building Department’s Chevy Suburban;
• agreed to reschedule the council meeting set for Thanksgiving day to the preceding week on Thursday, November 21.