The devil is always in the details and when it comes to details, Palmetto officials dig deep. As commissioners consider the “what ifs” of a proposed parking ordinance that could spark downtown redevelopment growth, the city is inching closer to making it a reality.
The city owns several small parcels of land in downtown and the ordinance would allow businesses to develop those properties without the required number of parking spaces. In exchange, the businesses would essentially purchase the spaces that can’t fit on the sites. The money would be held in a trust fund that would require the city to construct a new parking lot within 10 years within a certain distance of those businesses.
“Staff thinks its a good idea,” said Mark Barnebey, city attorney. “Basically this gives opportunities to people looking at downtown property that are almost impossible to redevelop without some provision addressing lack of parking on the sites.”
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Officials have been debating the ordinance since first drawn up in early 2016. Concerns vary from the creation of overflow parking until a city parking lot would be built to determining what is a “reasonable walking distance” from an eventual city lot to the businesses. What has held up the ordinance from moving forward is how much it would cost a potential business for the parking spaces.
By the time we implement this, it will be one of our best economic tools to date.
Palmetto Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant
Staff initially recommended $17,000 per space based on construction costs, but the commission felt that was too steep. In an attempt to move the concept forward, Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant said commissioners “should ignore that dollar amount. We are not prepared to establish an amount, and I don’t want the commission to get wrapped up in that. I want them to talk about the concept and where we can go with it.”
Allen Tusing, public works director, said the ordinance had to come first. An amount the city would charge could be implemented afterward through a resolution, and changed if necessary. Tusing said the lack of moving the ordinance forward is prohibiting growth.
“If this isn’t provided, then either you won’t have development or existing buildings on small lots won’t get redeveloped and will fall into disrepair,” Tusing said. “Or the city will just continue to have vacant lots.”
Vacant lots don’t draw tax revenue and that is one of the primary reasons staff is in favor of the ordinance. By allowing small lots to be built on without parking space requirements means the footprint is larger, thus so is the tax base.
“By the time we implement this, it will be one of our best economic tools to date,” Bryant said. “It makes logical sense to do this.”
This town has to grow and will grow with innovative ideas like this and progressing them.
Commissioner Brian Williams
Tusing said the commission needs to make a decision.
“We can’t keep spending more and more time on this,” he said. “Staff needs to know if this is a direction we can make work. Otherwise we just keep spending time on it and having the same discussions.”
Commissioners appear to be in favor of the ordinance, but not without every concern addressed.
“I’m for every bit of this,” said Commissioner Brian Williams. “This town has to grow and will grow with innovative ideas like this and progressing them.”
However, Williams and the commission want more questions answered before voting.