Winslow parking regs may be changed

The Planning Commission mulls lower requirements for new buildings.

Most agree that paradise is rarely a parking lot, but neither is a half-mile scamper through the rain after you’ve failed to find a closer spot.

Thus, the debate continues over the future of parking in Winslow, as amendments to the current parking ordinance filter through the revision process.

Street parking, shared parking and reducing the number of required spaces for businesses downtown were among the topics discussed by the public and the Planning Commission Thursday night.

“There is a consensus among many of the business owners that all of this has to happen at once if it’s going to work,” said Tom Haggar, owner of the Virgina Mason Clinic property on Winslow Way. “We set out with this dream for Winslow Tomorrow and want to move forward to achieve it, but we can’t just improve street parking or employee parking alone. All these things are interdependent.”

Among the complicated elements of the plan is amending the parking space requirements, because rules vary for different land uses.

Restaurants, for example, require four parking spaces for every 1,000 square feet of space. Plans to reduce that requirement to three or two spaces per 1,000 square feet would greatly impact future development on the island, a major concern of the Winslow Tomorrow project.

Whether that impact would be positive or negative remains to subject to debate and depends on the type of development the city wants to attract.

Parking requirements are typically more lax for residential developments because they don’t need as many spaces as businesses trying to draw customers through the door.

Winslow architect Charlie Wenzlau said the city’s current parking requirements discourage commercial development in favor of residential.

“Parking is critical to the new image of Winslow,” Wenzlau said. “As builders it controls everything we do. It rules our projects because you can only build what you can park and each space adds $15,000 to $20,000 to the underlying cost of the project.”

Having a maximum number of spaces for each business was discouraged by many at the meeting, including Haggar.

“If businesses are in a position to provide additional space to people who don’t have adequate parking, it doesn’t make sense to stand in their way,” he said.

Most agreed the issue was complicated because different areas have different needs.

The Harbour Public House on Parifitt Way is planning an expansion, and under the new ordinance could meet part of its parking requirements off-site, something not allowed by the current code.

Residents along Parfitt Way, already upset about patrons of the pub parking along the street, asked for a separate solution to their problem, something they say could be accomplished by simply excluding them from the downtown core requirements.

“Parfitt is not Winslow Way,” said Parfitt resident Meg Hagemann. “We welcome the pub and the other neighborhood businesses, but there are a lot of young children and elderly people that live here. I’m amazed anyone would lump our street in with downtown.”

Jeff Waite, pub co-owner, said he understands the concern, but feels the area has been falsely characterized as a residential neighborhood.

Waite relies on the current street parking for his business and said building a parking lot would only cause a different set of problems.

“Parking lots just give people a place to congregate,” he said. “The way things are now, when it’s closing time, people move on quickly. Creating new parking structures isn’t the answer. I see this as more of an enforcement issue. Either way, something needs to be done or Winslow Tomorrow is dead on arrival.”

The planning commission said it will encourage shared parking.

Movie theaters, for example could lease parking spaces from nearby offices at night in order to maximize current resources.

Some island businesses already have innovative parking plans. Island Fitness offers free parking any time to its members, whether they’re using the facility or not.

Appropriate walking distances and problems with long-term and commuter parking were also discussed.

The Planning Commission will look at parking revisions again on May 25.

Sandy Fischer, project manager of Winslow Tomorrow, said changes would likely be implemented over time beginning this summer.

“We don’t want to do a wholesale remake overnight,” Fischer said. “Several of these recommendations make a lot of sense and we’re going to evaluate what we’ve heard and take things forward to the next step.”

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