Downtown Pinedale doesnít have a parking problem, it has a zoning problem
by Dawn Ballou, Pinedale Online!
February 22, 2011
The Town of Pinedale held a "Downtown Pinedale Parking Workshop" on Tuesday, Feb. 22nd at the Pinedale Library.íHas your downtown business or building been affected by the Town of Pinedale parking ordinance? Find out the facts about downtown parking and options to alleviate this important issue,í the Town Planning & Zoning department urged.
About 25 people braved the snowy weather and icy roads to attend the workshop, which was hosted by Town of Pinedale Zoning Administrator Kate Grimes, and WLC Engineering Planner and Urban Designer, Jeff Hosea. The Town hired WLC to work on the Downtown Pinedale Master Plan.
The first question Hosea asked the audience was, "Do you think Pinedale has a parking problem downtown?" Most everyone in the room raised their hand to say ĎYesí.
He and Grimes then spent the rest of the meeting explaining why they felt there really wasnít a parking problem in downtown Pinedale.
After analyzing downtown businesses and their available onsite parking, then adding in the available off-site parking, Hosea concluded that the town actually has MORE available parking spaces downtown than it needs to accommodate the parking needs of the downtown businesses.
The key is factoring sufficient parking requires including nearby off-site parking spaces as being available for use to the downtown businesses.
Hosea said a lot of the businesses downtown currently donít meet the code for required parking spaces, but "a lot of those businesses donít have a parking problem." Why? Because they are utilizing the off-street spaces in the Town right-of-way as additional parking for their businesses, for employee parking and for customers.
WLC calculated there are 124 active businesses in the downtown core area between Lincoln Avenue on the west to where Pine Street curves to the south on the east. Of those 124 businesses, 82 donít meet current on-site parking requirements. WLC calculated downtown should have 1638 parking spaces according to code for those existing businesses, but actually only has 918. That leaves a deficit of 720 parking spaces needed, according to current code.
Hosea said studies have shown that it takes 300 square feet of land to develop every parking space, when including approaches and the actual parking space. The average cost to a developer is $3,500 per space. If a small business is required to have ten parking spaces for their place of business, the cost is $35,000, "which is often cost prohibitive for a small developer," Hosea said.
Using "shared parking", combining onsite and off-site parking spaces, Hosea said their analysis shows Pinedale actually has more than 200 spaces over what is required by code for cumulative downtown parking needs.
Grimes said current zoning regulations are too restrictive and donít allow her to authorize many of the requests that come into the Town from people asking to have permission to repurpose a downtown building for a different use, because the parking space requirements cannot be met for the new use. "People find themselves in a bind. They have a building, but they canít change uses because they donít have enough parking." Downtown Pinedale was laid out in the early 1900s, long before the current zoning regulations came into the picture. "The parking is not tied to the building, it is tied to the use," Grimes said. If the use changes for the building, the parking requirement changes to the new regulations. "The use in the zoning district isnít grandfathered," she said.
Hosea said a vibrant downtown core is better with closely spaced, continuous storefronts that encourage a walking community that can browse and shop. He said placing more parking lots in the downtown core area has been shown to actually hurt the business community because it spreads the shopping apart and discourages pedestrian traffic. "Economically, more parking hurts your downtown," he stated. "An oversupply of parking tends to deaden the downtown."
"Most small towns have enough parking, if it is used more efficiently," Hosea said. Shoppers usually donít mind walking from one to three blocks to get to a destination, depending on how much time they have to spend to do their shopping.
Grimes said 7,000 people a day drive through Pinedale, and the Town would like to find a way to encourage more of those people to stop and spend time downtown. She said she felt the current parking ordinances should be changed.
Audience members agreed and said they felt the Town of Pinedale needed to be "more business friendly."
John Fogerty, on the Town of Pinedale Planning and Zoning Board, said he felt the Townís parks were a big draw for visitors and could be made to be a more featured aspect of our community so people will desire to stop and spend time in town. "It doesnít appear to the average traveler that there is anything here to stop for," he said. He felt more signs were needed that directed people to the parks and to public parking. He commented that the parks and stream corridor are a big asset for the Town that could be made more inviting for visitors to stop and spend time in them and in the downtown area.
Local businessman Shane Costello, who owns Clean Wash Laundry on the west side of town, commented that the current parking ordinances significantly restricted what he could do with his property. He purchased a lot of a little more than 5,000 square feet and code required that 3,000 of it be designated for parking. Even though he wanted to expand, he couldnít use more than 2,000 square feet for his business building Ė the rest had to be left for parking, which he felt was excessive for his business. Costello felt if the parking regulations were going to be changed inside the downtown core area, they should also be reexamined for outside that area.
Hosea said, "I think it is important for the Town to step in and provide parking when needed. The numbers show we have enough parking right now and donít need to build a parking lot."
The current Town ordinances were copied verbatim years ago from the town of Gillette. The code hasnít been updated in 27 years, and doesnít necessarily reflect the needs of Pinedale today. Other towns review their ordinances as often as every couple of years to make sure they stay in step with the needs of the community.
There was also discussion about how the new sidewalks and curbs add to aiding the walking community the Town wants to encourage. Sidewalk snow removal issues were discussed with ways to keep sidewalks open to allow people to get through during the winter months. Currently, business owners are required to shovel sidewalks in front of their stores, but no one maintains the portions of sidewalks in front of downtown buildings that are empty. It was suggested that the Town take on the maintenance of the sidewalks downtown to ensure consistent and timely plowing of all the downtown sidewalks, taken that burden off of the business owners.
After determining that there was no one in the room opposed to the idea of removing parking space requirements for the downtown core area and allowing businesses to use a mixture of onsite and off-street parking for their needs, Grimes lined out the next steps in the process. The Planning & Zoning staff will draft a new ordinance and present it to the Planning & Zoning Board. They will discuss it at a public meeting. Once they have had a chance to tweak it to their satisfaction, it will go to the Pinedale Town Council. It will need to be advertised and then will go through three readings during public meetings, after which time it would be adopted.
Grimes said they welcome public comments on this topic. People can stop by, call or e-mail comments to the Town Hall. The Town has a website, www.townofpinedale.us and are also on Facebook for additional ways to make comments on the parking topic.