Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Paucity of Planning for Public Parking . . .

I wondered why I heard someone complaining about finding parking when I walked past the train station yesterday. There has always been plenty of parking around the train station.Then I came upon the scene at left (click to enlarge) which was a big surprise.

The large public parking lot created at taxpayers' expense across the street from Union Station, the Children's Museum and the Oneida County DMV Office has apparently been sold to the owners of the Doyle Building and is now off limits to the public.

With the city of Utica so concerned about the availability of public parking these days, when/how did this happen?

It actually happened back in 2007 during the Julian administration . . .  AND it was approved by the Utica Common Council But did anyone from the public really understand what was going on?

Buried in a 6/21/07 article in the Utica OD "Could Park Avenue become a parking lot?" (use your library card for access) comes this tid-bit:
"The sale of 322-328 Main St. to Stuart A. Bannatyne for $50,000 was approved. Bannatyne plans to create additional parking for 330-334 Main St., the former Doyle Hardware building ."
The article makes it sound like Mr. Bannatyne is "creating" parking on the site, rather than purchasing existing public parking. Who would know what is on 322-328 Main?  Who would know that the developer's "working with the city to address parking issues" described in an earlier 4/25/07 article involved the sale of a public parking facility?

The public only gets an inkling of what happened after council approval of the sale from Councilman Ed Hill's statements in a 6/26/07 article "Council will look into Park Ave. plan"
Councilman Ed Hill, R-1, told the group at Wednesday night's Economic Development Committee meeting that he believes the idea to close a portion of the street [Park Avenue] was developed in secrecy.

Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente and Mayor Tim Julian, both Hill's fellow Republicans, should have first discussed the idea with the council before drawing up plans, Hill said.

"As a councilperson, it's been my experience that there's been no discussion between the mayor and myself," Hill said after the meeting. "I'm not trying to stymie progress, but I also have ideas and have talked to people."

The meeting ended following a shouting match between Hill and Julian. That occurred as Hill described what he said was a deal between city and county leaders to deed a county-owned parking lot near the former Doyle Hardware building to the city.

According to Hill, the deal was made so the city could then sell it to Stuart Bannatyne , the New York City developer who purchased the Doyle building. In return, the city would allow the closing of Park Avenue to meet the county's parking needs, Hill said.

"There's not a conspiracy on every corner, Ed," a frustrated Julian said loudly from his seat across the table. Moments later, Julian walked out.

Hill's fellow Republicans dismissed his statements and said his theory has no validity.
Even here, the article tells the public only that the parking lot is "near" the Doyle building.

The lack of transparency and odor of back-room dealing are troubling . . . but the real issue is a lack of planning that still remains even after more than $325,000 taxpayer dollars have been spent on the Utica Master Plan that is not a plan. 

There may be good reasons for giving the Doyle Building its own parking area, but imagine if Doyle was in the New Hartford Shopping Center.  What would it be like if the Shopping Center's vast parking lot were carved up into spaces designated for each tenant? It would become inconvenient because customers would have to drive around to find the spaces owned by the establishment they wanted to patronize. Some establishments might run out of spaces at particular times while other spaces go unoccupied. It might be such a bother that people would stay away.  Does not Utica run the risk of this happening at Baggs Square? 

The parking required by an area can be estimated from the kinds of activities contemplated and the square footage that will be occupied by those activities.

The answer is PLANNING for both uses and parking to ensure that there are enough spaces for all the land uses contemplated within a particular area. With sound planning a developer like Mr. Bannatyne might not feel the need to have to purchase and maintain a separate lot.  That reduces the cost of doing business. With sound planning, fewer spaces might need to be built, e.g. spaces serving the DMV during the day would be free to serve the restaurant crowd at night.  That increases efficiency.  

Being able to do things more efficiently used to be the driver behind the rise of cities. 

But Utica cannot be efficient without a REAL plan.  As long as Utica remains without a real plan, development will continue to require special deals --- or the development will go to the suburbs where developers will have more room to control their own environment.


Anonymous said...

I know the business I'm boycotting. Thanks Utica for the stench of corruption that gets stronger and stronger year after year.

Anonymous said...

How about using eminiant domain to re-take the parking lot instead using it to take a farmers land in Marcy for a mythical chip plant?

Silence Dogood said...

This may be off topic but anonymous 2 mase me think. You have to wonder after all these years you need more land for a chip plant. No wetland permits, cant get a plant, not enough water, cant get a plant, not enough land, cant get a plant. One thing we do have enough of is excuses.

Anonymous said...

And, it's sickening when one thinks of the wasted taxpayer dollars. Yet the County keeps funding the same people with the same stale approach and terrible track record. What's the definition of insanity? Is it not we who pay the bills the real fools?

Dave said...

I see not much has changed since I left Utica many years ago. Sure, this stuff happens everywhere. But with such regularity? Whew!

Anonymous said...

The stench eminating from the county building & city hall is so bad that residents need a gas mask in order to deal with it. I wouldn't trust anything this crowd does even if they put their right hand on a Bible & swore to it.

Anonymous said...

This "stuff" does not happen everywhere. Many areas have smart politics that spur growth. We need to throw the bums out!