The company hired to study the parking situation in downtown Saline provided its findings and a series of recommendations to Saline City Council Monday.
Dave Burr, of Rich & Associates, told council that public parking was tight during peak evening hours – and that it could become a more serious problem if 147 W. Michigan Ave. is developed. The study recommended the following measures:
- Negotiate with downtown churches and Key Bank to used their private lots, which are rarely busy during evening hours.
- Private lots could be used for downtown business employee parking who use a hang-tag prmit.
- After acquiring rights to the Key Bank parking lot, combine it with the city lot behind it, creating 40 new spaces.
- Maintain two-hour parking in the current on-street spaces.
- Considering allowing long-term parking in less convenient and less utilized on-street spaces on Henry, McKay and Lewis streets.
- Reduce the limits in city-owned lots from four to three hours.
- Consider issuing parking permits to allow shop owners to park in two-hour off-street beyond the stated limit.
- Continue current method of parking enforcement, as the violation ration of five percent is not extreme.
- Purchase handheld ticket writers that can be used to record previous offenses and notify officers if an offender has unpaid tickets – which could be used in a graduated fine schedule.
- Currently, fines are $10 if paid in 24 hours, $20 from 2-14 days, and $30 beyond 14 days. A new schedule was suggested. Courtesy warning for the first violation, $15 for the second violation, $25 for the third violation, and $35 for the fourth violation.
- Use of a tire “boot” called a Barnacle to immobilize a chronic offender until the fines are paid.
- Maintain free parking.
- Rename lots to correspond with streets and implement new signage.
- Install more bike racks.
Rich & Associations also evaluated the possibility of a parking structure, concluding that it should only be pursued if the city can not strike a deal with Key Bank or St. Paul’s United Church of Christ. Rich & Associates provided data showing…. Would cost $7.7 to $7.8 million to fund a 223-space parking garage behind Mac’s. It would add 156 new spaces and cost the city $518,000 to $628,000 annually for 20 years. In addition, the costs associated with running the garage would be about $60,000 in the first year and it would increase annually.
As Councillor Dean Girbach noted, the data about parking occupancy re-affirmed what many already believed about downtown parking.
Burr reported there were 859 parking places in downtown Saline and the 400 were public. That includes on-street parking. He noted that the parking lot at the City of Saline offices, for example, were not considered public because they’re reserved for employees and people visiting city hall.
The study was conducted Thursday, May 31, and Friday, June 1. The study found:
- Of the 860 total spaces, just over 50 percent were used at the peak time – 7 to 8 p.m. But that includes private spots.
- Private lot occupancy is at its highest, just under 40 percent, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Public occupancy peas from 6 to 8 p.m., when about 80 percent of the spaces are used.
- The five public lots are reaching 90 percent occupancy during peak evening ours. On-street spaces have are about 60 percent occupied.
- There’s 8,300 square feet of unoccupied space in downtown Saline. If used, it would have very little impact on parking.
- Demand could rise substantially if 147 W. Michigan Ave. was developed, and Mayor Marl Brian Marl indicated that he’d had talks with the owner about developing the corner lot. If that property were developed as planned a decade ago, with 118 parking spots – far less than the 266 called for by city ordinance. This would create a shortage of public parking during peak evening hours – although Rich & Associates believes the city’s code requirement for commercial development is too high.
Many of council’s questions were about using private parking.
City Councillor Linda TerHaar asked Burr if these recommendation worked in cities with problems similar to Saline’s. Burr said shared parking resources helped solve evening parking issues in Dublin, Ohio.
Councillor Jack Ceo noted the city has had difficulty working with Key Bank to share their lot. He asked Burr what kind of things the city can do to incentivize such a deal with private owners. It was said later in the meeting that the city could offer trash pick up, snow plowing, and other maintenance costs.
Councillor Janet Dillon asked who would be liable if an incident happened on a private lot during the “public hours.” City Manager Todd Campbell said the lot would fall under the city’s insurance policy if it happened during “public hours.” Police Chief Jerrod Hart said the liability question might best be answered by the city’s attorneys.
Councillor Christine Mitchell said that based on previous conversations she was pessimistic an agreement could be reached with Key Bank.
Mayor Brian Marl said council would require time to digest the report. Council will revisit the recommendations at its Oct. 1 meeting.
Rich and Associates worked on the study with a steering committee that included City Manager Todd Campbell, Councillors Linda TerHaar, Janet Dillon and Heidi McClelland, business owners Jill Durnen, David Rhoads and Wally MacNeil, Saline Main Street Executive Director Holli Andrews, Saline Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director John Olsen, City Treasurer Micki Jo Bennet, Saline Department of Public Works Director Jeff Fordice and Saline Police Chief Jerrod Hart.