Off-street parking modified in city

GLOVERSVILLE — Minimum off-street parking requirements in the city code were reduced for residential units and removed for other development projects subject to Planning Board oversight through an ordinance recently adopted by the city.

The Common Council on Tuesday approved an ordinance modifying the section of city code containing an itemized schedule for minimum off-street parking requirements for development.

The ordinance reduces the minimum number of parking spaces required for residential projects to one off-street parking space per housing unit. Under city code residential development projects previously required one parking space for each studio apartment, one and a half spaces for each single bedroom apartment and two spaces for each two-bedroom apartment.

The ordinance also removed mandatory minimum off-street parking requirements for commercial, industrial and manufacturing projects, instead leaving the determination of adequate parking levels to the discretion of the Planning Board.

The modification to city code stipulates that the Planning Board when reviewing applications relative to off-street parking must take into account the proposed use, pedestrian accessibility and “other reasonable indications that the amount of parking is adequate to meet estimated parking needs.”

The update to minimum off-street parking requirements follows a series of applications that came before the Planning Board this year seeking approval for proposed redevelopment projects downtown that were under review for several months as developers sought to secure sufficient numbers of parking spaces to meet city code requirements.

City officials have pointed to minimum parking requirements as overly restrictive and a hindrance to the revitalization of downtown by limiting the ability of developers to rehabilitate existing buildings and hampering efforts to make the city more pedestrian friendly.

But during a public hearing on the ordinance, resident Renato Sanges raised concerns that the removal of nearly all parking requirements from the city code would create future “headaches” and urged the council to “do the hard work now of developing clearly defined parking requirements.” Sanges’ comments were submitted by letter and read into the record by City Clerk Jennifer Mazur.

Sanges pointed to the city’s prohibition on overnight on-street parking during the winter months from Nov. 30 through March 31 as creating a conflict with the loosening of parking requirements for residential units with multiple bedrooms in an area with limited public transit options for commuters.

“It seems unrealistic considering in today’s environment where people use their personal vehicles to commute to work that a three- or four-bedroom living space would only need one off-street parking space,” stated Sanges.

While Sanges acknowledged that the city is often referred to as a “walking community,” not all residents walk to local sites and pointed to possible constraints to efforts to revitalize downtown and encourage visitors or tourists to the city without sufficient parking.

“While there may be an overabundance of parking now, we need to plan future parking requirements with our future hopes for downtown,” stated Sanges. “We cannot just completely abandon minimum parking requirements downtown or in years to come we could face parking issues such as Schenectady and Saratoga Springs are currently experiencing.”

With no other comments coming from the public during the hearing, the Common Council approved the ordinance by a 5-2 vote. Councilman-at-Large William Rowback Jr. and 4th Ward Councilwoman Ellen Anadio voted against the ordinance. None of the council members took the opportunity to discuss the legislation prior to voting.

Following the meeting Mayor Vincent DeSantis pointed to the approved ordinance as providing developers more opportunity to determine what is suitable for their business while allowing the Planning Board to do its due diligence in determining if adequate off-street parking will be supplied when reviewing any applications.

“When you open a business you make a big investment and you have to think about those things and so if a business owner feels that their customer base are people who would walk from close by, let them be the judge of that,” said DeSantis.

DeSantis pointed to the previous code provisions as overly restrictive using the example of a special permit application submitted by NVP Development earlier this year for the planned renovation of 20-24 S. Main St. calling for commercial space on the ground floor and approximately 14 apartments on the upper floors that under city code was required to secure approximately 50 off-street parking spaces to support the proposed level of use.

The Planning Board was only able to approve the application in July after developers secured letters from the city and the Fulton County Center of Regional Growth dedicating off-street parking spaces to the project at nearby properties. Under the new code provisions, minimum parking requirements would be equal to the number of apartments the project will create with any additional supporting parking levels to be set by the Planning Board.

“I don’t think that our code is meant to tie the hands of business owners or the Planning Board and they’ll have to make a determination on a case-by-case basis,” said DeSantis. “We want to be as little restrictive as we can but still be responsible with respect to off-street parking.”

By Patricia Older