By Michael Mell
The village board unanimously passed a resolution allowing the village to accept a fee in lieu of providing off-street parking in the B-1 and B-2 zoning districts. The B-1 district covers Main Street and B-2 covers Chestnut Street, including the Foodtown Plaza and the Drug World Plaza. The waiver is voluntary and a merchant may apply for a waiver through the Planning Board. The resolution does not include a fee structure, which will be established by the trustees in consultation with the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals. Funds raised from the waiver fees will be used for maintenance and repair of streets and sidewalks. Mayor Gallagher said that the board will “strive” to factor in all costs borne by the village to achieve a “per space” fee. At the same time the board has reserved the right to modify fees on an ad hoc basis at their discretion. Village attorney Stephen Gaba pointed out that, as with other fees, the board will conduct a study to aid it to establish a fee structure.
A lively, but cordial public hearing on the resolution was held prior to the vote with both trustees and residents weighing in on the resolution itself as well as the concept of a waiver in general. Surprisingly no merchants from the affected areas were in attendance. Much of the discussion revolved around how tightly the resolution should be constructed. Gallagher said that the law’s provisions were left relatively open to allow the board wide latitude in evaluation of individual cases. He added that the board is not looking to make it difficult for existing or potential merchants. This was precisely the problem for resident Peter Anderson who pointed out that both building uses and trustees change. “Will a future board remember the intent of this board?”
The village code currently requires merchants to provide off-street parking for staff and customers. The number of spaces is determined by the type of business (i.e. restaurant, hardware store, doctor’s office,) the number of employees and the amount of time customers will spend in the establishment. Some merchants rent spaces from other merchants who may have an excess. With parking spaces at a premium, especially on Main Street, the village has addressed enforcement of this provision, in the past, with an ad hoc and undefined system. It is hoped that the new law will ameliorate the code mandates and provide a unified and consistent fee structure.