City of Sylvania officials say that downtown merchants want to maintain a friendly parking atmosphere with free parking and complaint driven time-limit enforcement.
Bill Sanford, economic development director, on Monday night reported his parking study perspectives to the economic development sub-committee, based on interviews with more than 30 downtown merchants. The input was spurred in part by a proposal to extend parking around Sylvania Municipal Court, as well as an expected increase in traffic from the planned opening of an Executive Diner on Main Street.
"The perception is that we have friendly parking, but at certain time there are parking issues. But overall they like it. They like that we don’t issue tickets, that we don’t have parking meters,” Mr. Sanford said. After a December, 2008, parking study conducted by SmithGroup JJR of Ann Arbor, the city created more parking display signs to increase a visitor’s knowledge of parking areas. He said that more signs may be needed now.
He said that some owners suggested parking spots could be freed up if police vehicles and dumpsters in the municipal lot located next to the police station and on the east side of the Erie and Kalamazoo Railroad tracks were moved.
About five interviewees felt strongly about adding a parking deck to accommodate future growth, he said. The majority were against it, with some saying they “feared the cost,” he said. Instead, the business owners supported ground level parking expansions or remedies, he said.
Landscape architect for JJR, Cheryl Zeullig, said rough estimates for a deck ran from $25,000 to $35,000 for each parking space. Although not suggested now, future business growth could call for the need for such a parking structure. She said cities in the past have come to an agreement with companies in need to split the cost if a deck was needed. She urged the committee to handle the idea of a deck so if the issue arises years from now, that present council would have some form of reference to handle the discussion.
She and Mr. Sanford spoke about having employees parking in lots farther away and leaving the closer spots for customers.
"At Whole Foods in Ann Arbor, the employees park three miles away in a bank parking lot. They do it so the Whole Foods’ customers can have access to parking lots,” she said, adding that the grocery chain had an agreement with the bank owner.
Other suggestions she gave members to consider was approaching the owner of the large parking lot behind Chandler Cafe and Key Bank, which is accessed by five different drives off Summit Street. Officials said it is owned by the Stansley family, who own the cafe, and JDRM, an engineering firm housed in one of the buildings on Main Street.
The lot has railings or curbs dividing it into sub-lots. Eliminating some of the entrances, re-striping, and knocking down the barriers would provide more parking. Officials said the lot, although privately owned, is perceived to be public; the lot owners do not tow car owners who park there and visit other businesses.
Sub-committee chairman Mark Luetke said about five years ago, former law director Jim Moan approached the owners then about combining the lot and was unsuccessful. However, he said the committee would review the option again since the owners have changed.
Mayor Craig Stough requested Mrs. Zeullig provide employee parking programs that are “self-enforced” to alleviate the employee parking problem.
“As soon as someone breaks rank, everyone parks close again, which is what the businesses are doing now,” he said.
Mrs. Zeullig also suggested more “pedestrian connections” to the shops from parking lots, including sidewalks within the municipal parking lot that would provide a safe and well lit route when crossing through the lot, she said.
The economic development sub-committee will review the parking information provided and is expected to formulate some recommendations for the next meeting scheduled for 6:15 p.m. Feb. 18.