In the future, merchants located in Olde Pickerington Village might be asked to pool resources to create off-street parking for their customers.
The concept, termed a "parking fee-in-lieu," was developed as part of Pickerington's ongoing zoning code overhaul, a process started in 2013 to make the city's zoning code more user friendly for both businesses and residents in the city.
Jennifer Readler, an attorney with the law firm Frost Brown Todd LLC, and Chris Hermann of consulting firm MKSK, were hired by the city to oversee the revisions.
Hermann stated the idea behind the parking fee-in-lieu plan is to create adequate parking in Olde Pickerington Village by charging each business in the district a one-time fee.
Proceeds would be used towards the construction of a parking lot somewhere close to downtown.
The concept recognizes the current and future constraints of the Olde Pickerington Village district in terms of its parking viability.
In other words, there is not enough for its long-term sustainability.
Hermann said if a downtown business can't provide all the parking required by the zoning code on a particular lot, then it would pay a fee, generally around $1,500 per space, to help provide public parking on a designated lot.
At its meeting Feb. 11, one member of Pickerington's Planning and Zoning Commission said he is skeptical that the plan would work as designed.
"I have a problem with the business community having to pay a fee for parking spaces that may or may not appear," Hackworth said.
City Development Services Director Joe Henderson said the plan simply "creates another option for businesses in Olde Village if they have land and can build a parking space."
Henderson said businesses that are located or seek to locate in Olde Pickerington Village are different than those on state Route 256.
"They have a different ownership model," Henderson said.
Thus, they would be inclined to support such an endeavor because more parking ultimately benefits every business there, he said.
Hermann said more parking will also bring new business to the area.
"Olde Village wants to attract new business," said Hermann, adding all businesses would equally share in the burden of providing a public parking lot.
"We don't want to let you off 'scot-free' so instead of free parking you have to pay the fee that equals the cost of building those spaces," Hermann said.
"Why would (City) Council want to put more parking downtown?" Hackworth asked.
"It's going to cost money the city doesn't have right now," he said.
Henderson said the fees imposed would "create a pretty good pot of money" from which to build a centralized lot.
He said such a parking lot would actually maintain the charm of Olde Village by preserving its walkability since it would be in close proximity.
Hackworth said new businesses might have a problem paying for a parking lot with no guarantees in place.
"If the city were building a lot in 2017 that is one thing, but a business might be 'out of business' before (the city) gets the parking space," Hackworth said.
Henderson has stated a parking fee-in-lieu would not be set in an ordinance, but rather as part of the city's General Fee schedule that would be approved by Pickerington City Council on an annual basis.
The issue is still in the process of being fine-tuned as part of the city's zoning code revision process.
The complete zoning revision document, with all the changes and updates to the city's code, are expected to undergo review by Pickerington City Council in April.