With dining and drinking establishments driving redevelopment in Clintonville, parking remains a primary concern.

Just how much of a concern -- and what, if anything, can be done to address it -- are the core questions the Clintonville Area Commission's parking task force seeks to answer.

Formed earlier this year, the task force has met twice in pursuit of a more holistic approach to the ongoing issues surrounding parking in the neighborhood.

CAC chairwoman B.J. White proposed creating the task force in the wake of repeated variance requests related to parking that have come before the commission.

"I'm just trying to spark some interest in thinking about ways to address the issue," White said in January.

"We're early on in our discussions. Everything's on the table and nothing's on the table, so to speak," task force member Jim Dziatkowicz said.

Those early discussions have focused on shortcomings in the city of Columbus' zoning code related to parking density, White said, along with brainstorming potential solutions to address concerns about parking that might be accomplished without zoning updates.

"It seems like every time there's a use change or a redevelopment proposal, parking always comes up and there's a need for a variance," task force member Andrew Overbeck said. "Those things with the zoning code, those are things that have to be done at the city level. We can point out some places where it has problems."

"That's a tall order, we know," Dziatkowicz said, "but there are definitely shortcomings, especially related to how the number of required spaces is calculated in its current form."

White said she also is focused on creative solutions that work within the current code. She specifically cited shared parking agreements obtained in support of a variance request for 3400 N. High St. that was approved by the commission at its March 5 meeting, affirming a recommendation by the CAC's zoning and variance committee. (The request will be heard in a future Columbus board-of-zoning-adjustment meeting.)

"The applicant had done all the right things in securing parking leases with North Broadway (United Methodist Church) and Clinton Elementary (School)," White said.

"We can look to see where there might be large areas of underutilized parking and maybe help find parking that could be shared," Overbeck said, adding there remains some discussion to be had as to whether an area commission should -- or even is allowed to -- actively broker such arrangements. "We can, though, look to see where those opportunities might exist."

White also said some discussion has taken place about the idea that parking problems are, in some cases, perceived.

"There is often a stigma of redevelopment and change of use to drinking and eating establishments," she said. "There can be a response suggesting that it's simple math that there is not enough parking, but it's not simple math. Redevelopment is going to necessitate parking variances. When there is a supportable plan, property owners should have the opportunity to redevelop.

"We're going to have to entertain drinking and dining establishments on High Street in locations where the prior use was something else; otherwise, we'll have empty buildings and vacant lots," she said.

"We're looking for pathways to work with businesses and residents, to have a dialogue and be out in front of parking concerns and solutions," Dziatkowicz said.

"It's up to the CAC to help mold and shape some of these perspectives and to work with developers without compromise to Clintonville's values," White said.

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