Subcommittees to Hash Out Parking

Discussion on downtown Warsaw residential parking continued Wednesday at the Traffic Safety Commission meeting, but parking subcommittees will reconvene to further discuss the matter.

A spreadsheet provided by City Councilwoman Cindy Dobbins indicated where all the downtown apartments are, how many vehicles belong to the residents, how many people are living in those apartments and some notes on where the vehicles are parked.
By her count, there are currently 28 vehicles owned by downtown residents. Most apartments have one or two occupants, and the apartments are in the 100 blocks of North and South Buffalo Street, East and West Center Street and West Market Street; and the 200 blocks of South Buffalo Street and East and West Center Street.

“To the best that I could find out,” she said. “In some cases, I couldn’t get in some of these units.”
Dana Hewitt, Warsaw parking enforcement, provided information on parking spaces downtown.

According to that information, for the start of 2016 the city has a total of 50 spaces for rent. Currently, 13 spaces are not rented and 37 are. Three renters from Lake City Bank and two from Expressions did not renew their contracts for 2016. Reed & Earhart, attorneys at law, did not renew their five spaces for 2016, and Vision It Now did not renew its two spaces. One woman retired from LCB in December and did not renew her space.
Mayor Joe Thallemer asked Dobbins what were her boundaries for her compilations of residences downtown. She said she went out about two blocks from the city’s center in each direction.

“Mostly it was in the historical district there,” she said. The bordering streets Dobbins looked into included Jefferson, High, Main and Washington, though the historical district goes beyond those streets.
Thallemer said the first thing they needed to do was to define the area they were talking about in regards to downtown residences, but that obviously could expand.
Dobbins said the owners of some downtown residences provide parking spaces for their residents.

Councilman Jack Wilhite asked if it was a requirement for landlords to provide parking spaces for their tenants. Dobbins and Traffic Safety Commissioner and Warsaw Police Department Lt. Kip Shuter said they thought it was a requirement in a city ordinance. The landlord doesn’t need to provide a space on their property, but provide a space somewhere.

“It’s in the landlord’s best interest to offer a spot because it’s very difficult to have a residential unit if there’s no parking with that,” Thallemer said.
Hewitt said a space in the city lot is $90 for six months per space. If the city does offer downtown residents permits to park in two-hour parking spots for more than two hours, as previously discussed, Shuter asked, “Are we going to have people dumping their rental spots because they’re going to be able to get something cheaper to just be able to park on the streets wherever? It’s something we need to consider.”

Hewitt said the city lot had 73 rental spots, but 23 were eliminated to allow for 50 reserve spaces and the 23 were opened up to unrestricted unlimited time. While 37 of the 50 are rented, Hewitt said he had a couple more people who may be interested in renting spots.
He indicated the parking lot had so many vacancies after 2015 because a couple of businesses left the Market Street area that had 13 spaces rented out for their employees. That included the vape shop and Pay Pro.

“I think the bigger issue here is we’ve got 28 units downtown, and if we restrict let’s say one parking space downtown, there’s potential, if everyone took advantage of it, there could potentially be 28 two-hour spaces that could be taken by residents downtown. So that was the reason for trying to get a number,” Thallemer said.
Downtown residents didn’t take advantage of the city lot spaces because they’re inconvenient, and the unlimited parking spots are now available and probably closer to their residences, Thallemer said.

“Is this something this group, should we potentially reconvene the parking group? We have an off-street (parking) group that could probably get an idea of costs to try and come up with a fee. And on-street (group) can look at how the on-street is being utilized now,” Thallemer said.
He said he didn’t want to tip the issue back the other way where the two-hour spots are now being taken by residential.

“It’s not my intention to just say any resident downtown can park anywhere they want. That’s not it at all. The idea here is, there is an option, if a landlord doesn’t have a space on his property, there is an option other than maybe the private lot close to them,” Thallemer continued.

He said there will be a market-driven cost, but it all needs to be figured out as it’s a “delicate balance.” He said he didn’t want to make any quick decisions.
After further discussion, it was decided the Traffic Commission’s parking subcommittees would meet and hash out the details further. Shuter said he will arrange for the groups to meet.