Wallingford PZC approves changes to downtown parking regulations

Wallingford PZC approves changes to downtown parking regulations

Record-Journal


WALLINGFORD — Recent changes to downtown parking regulations will lower overall parking requirements for downtown property owners.

The revisions, unanimously approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission on Jan. 6, include reductions in the number of spaces property owners are required to provide per square foot, as well as alternative options for property owners who cannot meet the minimum parking requirements due to space or layout constraints.

The commission had discussed the parking revisions at several meetings and workshops in the year leading up to the vote. The parking regulations went into effect on Jan. 13.

Town Planner Kacie Costello said the changes are meant to better tailor downtown parking requirements for the needs of the area, which are different than other areas of town because there is more on-street parking, which allows someone to park a vehicle in one space and access multiple buildings.

The amendments will reduce parking requirements for downtown properties of all categories and use. For example, downtown retail stores were previously required to have one parking space for every 250 square feet. The requirement was increased to 400 square feet with the changes.

The parking amendment allows developers and property owners to interchange an existing building’s use without having to adhere to additional parking requirements. For example, if a developer wishes to transform an office space into a restaurant, which requires more available parking, the developer would not have to create additional parking.

The changes also create alternative options for non-conforming owners who are not able to create sufficient parking due to space constraints. The options would allow owners to earn additional “parking credits” without having to construct additional parking.

Among the alternative options includes a fee in lieu of parking, which a property owner would pay to the town in lieu of the actual construction of required parking. Owners are only permitted to pay a fee to supplement 20 percent of the required spaces. The fees would be deposited into a fund, which the town would use to improve parking in the CA-6 downtown zone. Costello emphasized that tenants do not have to pay the fee, rather it is an option.

Owners would also be able to obtain parking credits by making privately owned parking spaces available to the general public permanently. One space that is made available to the public will count as one and a half spaces toward the property’s parking requirement. Other parking alternatives include placement of bicycle racks on a property, which would replace one required parking space, as well as form an agreement to share parking spaces with abutting properties with different hours of peak parking.

For instance, an office with peak parking hours during the day, and a restaurant, with peak hours at night, can share a certain numbers of parking spaces approved by the PZC. In determining the number of shared spaces, the commission will use results from a parking study that examined percentage of parking spaces used for different types of buildings at different times of day.

Property owners must submit an application for a special permit to the Planning and Zoning Commission in order to qualify for any of the approved parking alternatives.

The CA-6 area includes uptown Center Street to Hall Avenue and Quinnipiac streets. Parts of North Colony and South Colony roads are also in the zone.

Costello said the alternative options will provide some “flexibility” for non-conforming property owners.

Commission Chairman Jim Seichter hopes the changes will be a step forward in improving the “quality” of downtown parking. While the downtown area has adequate parking, quality of available parking needs improvement, he said.

Economic Development Specialist Tim Ryan believes the parking amendments will allow property owners to expand their property without needing to worry about meeting parking requirements. He called the previous regulations a “hindrance.”

“The regulation changes open the door for property owners to continue to update and improve their property,” Ryan said, adding that he knows of several downtown property owners who were deterred from expanding by the past regulations.

Jack McGuire, a downtown business owner, told the commission he tried to add an additional story onto a property he owned in the past, but was prohibited by parking regulations.

The commission voted to aproove a $2,000 fee in-lieu-of for each parking space. They previously discussed several highers amounts, including fees as high as $12,500 and $15,000.

Steve Knight, President of Wallingford Center Inc., said that a high fee could deter prospective developers from coming to the downtown area.

“How serious is this community about really wanting to work with me when I invest hundreds of thousands of dollars… but yet they want $12,500 for (a single parking space),” Knight said.

Economic Development Commission member Mark Gingras also expressed opposition to a fee of $12,500. He emphasized the importance of improving the quality of downtown parking.

“At the end of the day, we think development in the town is the most important thing. Development in the center of town is the most important thing because anybody coming from out of town… they’re going to come into the center of town and they want to see it. And that’s why it’s so important for us to build the center of town as a jewel to attract people. And parking is the most important.”

The idea to revise downtown parking regulations was first pitched last winter by Vincenzo DiNatale, who owns 350-370 Center St.

At a December meeting, DiNatale told the commission that while he “truly believes in (his) heart that zero regulations is the way to go,” the approved regulations are a “good compromise.”

mzabierek@record-journal.com 203-317-2279


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