Pickerington Times-Sun

City looks at reducing off-street parking requirements

By MICHAEL HAYES
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Does Pickerington over park?

That was the question up for debate at Pickerington's Zoning Code Steering Committee meeting on June 19 at City Hall.

Consultants hired to help revise the city's zoning code presented a recommendation to reduce the city's off-street parking requirements for certain future commercial developments by as much as 20 percent.

Jennifer Readler, an attorney with Frost Brown Todd, the firm charged with drawing up the revisions, said less parking is what's in.

"We're seeing a trend, moving towards sustainability, with our communities," Readler said.

"Historically, we planned for maximum impact events to make sure we had a lot of parking," she said.

"The trend now is to reduce parking requirements," Readler said.

She said one reduction method is to encourage businesses to collectively share parking lots.

"(It may) require a patron to walk further (but) the benefit is you're not looking out into a sea of asphalt," Readler said.

She said it is common to see shopping centers in Pickerington where at least 25 percent of the parking spaces are not being utilized at a given time.

"We have to have enough parking, but also mitigate the impact on the environment," she said.

To that end, she recommended Pickerington uniformly reduce the amount of parking in its new zoning code.

Restaurants and institutional settings such as churches and schools would be exempt from the revisions.

"We looked at this on a case-by-case basis, obviously there's room for debate," Readler told the committee.

"If that's not the direction you want to go we can revise that," she said.

Pickerington Mayor Lee Gray expressed opposition to the revisions, saying an active city like Pickerington needs adequate parking to continue to thrive.

"What's the benefit to the residents of Pickerington?" he asked.

"Our code is set up to have enough spaces to support business," Gray said.

"I can go on a weekend to Marcus Cinemas, it's full. I think we got it right. (Parking) at Kroger's Marketplace -- good luck. If you do, it's by the gas station," he said.

City Councilman Jeff Fix argued reducing parking has its appeal.

"The benefit to the citizens of Pickerington will be as they drive through town they're not driving past one long parking lot," Fix said.

"That's what you see when you drive down (state Route) 256," Fix said.

"I've lived here 17 years and only one time I haven't been able to find a space," he said.

City Development Director Joe Henderson said when businesses come into the city they have an idea of how many spaces they need to turn a profit.

Currently if a business wants less parking than required, it must seek a variance, as was the case, for example, with Northstar Realty LLC and the future Pickerington Plaza development.

In January, the developer received a variance to reduce parking from the required 300 spaces down to 231 for the project.

Readler said other communities have reduced parking with positive results.

"It's a policy decision on your part," she said.

"The main reason is the environmental impact for having more green space," she said.

Fix said a compromise is at hand.

Members of the Steering Committee agreed to continue the discussion about the proposed revisions at a July 17 meeting.

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