Bargain town

THE LANDMARK VIEW

Opinion

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It's just a small part of the new Central Business District zoning ordinance, but it just may have a significant impact on development in downtown Riverside. The village board voted Monday night to establish a fee whereby developers can essentially bypass the CBD's parking requirements for commercial property by paying a fee to the village.

The fee is $5,000 per parking space that any commercial development falls short of meeting.

If a development falls short by, say, 40 parking spaces, the developer would have to pay the village $200,000 as compensation.

The compensation is needed because ultimately the village will be on the hook for creating the parking that the development is not providing. But there is some real concern whether the $5,000-per-space buyout fee will be enough to cover the village's future expense.

According to information provided by the village's own planning consultant, a parking garage would average $15,000 per space. Even a simple surface lot would likely be more expensive than $5,000 per space. The most recent lot constructed by the village cost roughly $5,100 per space?"excluding the cost of the land.

If parking is such a scarce commodity in the downtown area, then larger scale new development will exacerbate the problem and the village will be on the financial wrong end of a parking lot construction program.

What's not clear, however, is how bad the parking crunch already is and how bad it's likely to get. There are more than a few in the village who would say that the parking situation is really not that bad any place in the CBD. Will the new addition to the Arcade Building really impact parking in a significant way? On its own, probably not. As the first in a series of new developments along East Quincy Road? Quite possibly.

That's why it seems to us that the $5,000-per-space fee seems like a bargain for developers, and maybe not such a great deal, ultimately, for the village. For now, what it looks like is an admission on the village's part that they misinterpreted the zoning code during the early stages of the development planning. Originally, the village did not require additional commercial parking for the redevelopment of the Arcade Building.

That's not to say that the $5,000 fee is set in stone. It's a resolution that can be changed down the line, and we think it probably ought to be. This measure looks to have been approved simply to jump start the process and make sure the redevelopment of the Arcade Building gets underway. The $5,000 is unlikely to jeopardize the project, despite statements by the developer that it might have an impact.

But we hope that village officials will reexamine the $5,000 fee, which will spur development but leave the village holding the parking bag.

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