Creating a temporary parking lot at 61-63 E. Burlington St. in Riverside appears remote after the village’s Plan Commission voted 6-1 on Thursday night to recommend denying an amendment to the zoning code.
Planning commissioners expressed a variety of concerns over the amendment, which sought to allow the village to create temporary parking lots on public land for up to 12 months. The amendment also proposed that the temporary lots be paved with “any material that is suitable for such use, including gravel.”
Commissioner Doug Pollack stated that the request for the amendment failed to pass the zoning code’s own basis for granting such a request, listing three criteria where the proposed amendment fell short.
In addition to suggesting that the gravel lot might, over time, become “a public nuisance,” said Commissioner Michael Sedivy, creating a temporary parking solution in downtown Riverside was not in the best interest of the business community.
Rather, he said, “they deserve a more permanent solution. I can’t support this.”
That view was echoed by Plan Commission Chairman David Lesniak, who said that the lot could become an eyesore after 12 months if a permanent parking solution was agreed upon at that site. He recommended rezoning the land for a commercial use (it currently carries a residential zoning designation) and suggested the village board decide if additional parking is needed downtown.
“One of the things the board needs to do is decide, is there a need for a lot,” Lesniak said.
Commissioner JoAnn Arvis also stated that creating a temporary lot would “open the door to all sorts of horrors.” Instead, she also suggested instead that the village has “an opportunity to do this right. We have the opportunity to decide what is the lot’s best use.”
Village Trustee Mark Shevitz, who attended the meeting, along with President Michael Gorman and three other village trustees, said he is in the process of trying to determine if there is another solution to the perceived need for parking downtown.
Business owners have voiced the opinion that parking is scarce and that employee parking is an especially critical issue. Employees end up taking street spaces that should be used for customers, which just exacerbates the problem, they say.
When the village board voted in June to defer action on moving ahead with designs for a permanent lot at 61-63 E. Burlington St., business owners responded with a one-day “protest” by parking their cars on the vacant lots. The village purchased the land in 2007.
In an interview after Thursday’s meeting, Shevitz told the Landmark that if there’s a need to augment parking downtown then officials need to ask, “Is there a better way to do it than a lot of 20 spaces” at 61-63 E. Burlington St.?
“What we’re trying to find out now is, is there a place to find parking for employees so they’re off the street at a cost of less than $40,000 to $50,000 per spot?” Shevitz said.
Shevitz’s calculations on per-space cost include the cost of purchasing the land, the cost of constructing the lot and the interest on the debt, which would be paid off by the village’s parking lot fund in $73,000 installments over 15 years.
The parking lot fund is supported by fees collected from parking lot users and not by property taxes.
Asked who is surveying possible solutions right now, Shevitz said he is undertaking that effort, assisted by village staff and business owners, who he says he’s been talking to regarding their specific parking needs.
Shevitz said that at the village board’s regularly scheduled meeting on Aug. 17, he present that information to trustees so that they’ll have the ability to discuss possible solutions.
A majority of village trustees could vote to overturn the commission’s recommendation, but it appears the temporary lot at 61-63 E. Burlington St. is in doubt. There is also a possibility that a majority of trustees could vote to move ahead with a permanent lot to be constructed next year.