Vote 2015: City Council Candidates Talk Downtown Parking

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 10/26/2015 - 00:25

On Nov. 3, City of Saline voters will elect three candidates to City Council. The candidates are incumbent Linda TerHaar, Lee Bourgoin, Jack Ceo and Heidi McClelland.

You can read their answers to all of the Saline Post's questions by clicking here:

Today's question is about parking solutions in downtown Saline. Earlier this year the city began enforcing 4-hour parking limits in the city lots in hopes it would open parking spots for customers and discourage employees and tenants from parking in the prime parking spots. The decision has drawn some criticism from business owners who say enforcement is unnecessary and perhaps harmful, because parking tickets could leave people with a bad impression of Saline.

We asked the candidates to share their thoughts.

The city has gone back and forth on limits in the downtown parking lots. Should Saline enforce parking lot regulations with parking tickets? Does Saline need more downtown parking, and if so, would you support the acquisition of more property?

Linda TerHaar

Parking is an issue about which nearly everyone has an opinion; opinions often differ widely. City Council has tinkered with parking over a period of months in the past year. While there may have been some small improvements, it is not clear to me that the general situation has improved significantly. I oppose having City Council take any further action on parking until we have sought expert review and analysis with recommendations for managing parking.

Lee Bourgoin

During the past few years the City Council has had the ability to resolve the controversial downtown parking issue.  Action should be taken without delay.  We should stop the parking tickets, which have a cost to enforce and are also anti-business both due to potential customers hearing about the controversy and due to people actually receiving tickets.  Instead we should advertise ample free parking at the four corners, in all four directions of the compass.  We would just enforce the ban on no overnight parking, with any needed towing in the wee hours well after midnight.

About 50 years ago I read The City in History by Lewis Mumford in which he described the organic nature of cities.  Cities have served as sanctuaries and places to gather; they can be reshaped for cultural needs in the suburban future.  That thought pattern of adjusting to cultural needs melds perfectly well with the ideas in Jeff Speck’s Walkable City in which he says that “parking is destiny”.  He says “it is the not-so-hidden force determining the life and death of many a downtown.”

During the past 20 years I have seen several novice and professional reviews of the downtown parking, which have all concluded that the only parking lot with a bind is in the northeast direction of the compass at the four corners --- from behind Dan’s Tavern to Smoke BBQ to behind the First Presbyterian Church.  So we should immediately develop additional parking at the corner of Hall Street and McKay Street, which should provide a net of about 15 additional spots.  The parking ticket issue can then just go away.

To be accountable to the community, we should consider multi-year parking changes to the urban design that will improve citizens’ lives over time.  To make South Ann Arbor better for our citizens, the city should sell the frontage in that parking lot to obtain an interesting retail use to eliminate the architectural “missing tooth” between Benito’s and the Grossman building.  Studies have shown that parking should be in the rear of continuous interesting retail facades to encourage browsing, since people will not usually walk more than 75 feet unless they have a fixed destination. 

About twenty years ago as the City Manager, I carried out the city wishes to develop two parking lots behind Comerica Bank which attracted Mac’s Acadian Seafood and others to fill empty storefronts.  We should now work to help the owners of the former Steeb Dodge, buying the back part of that open land for future public use.  We should also help the owner of 188 E. Michigan Avenue (the old R & B building) to enable better-suited downtown reuse, which in part might include additional public parking on part of the open land.

Jack Ceo

Most communities enforce parking limits with tickets.  Rules without consequences are not obeyed.  Parking limits are there to insure parking turnover, and availability of parking spaces to potential customers of our businesses.  Therefore, given the legitimate purpose of parking time limits, they should be enforced.  I have always found a place to park in town – maybe not right at the door of the place I was trying to patronize, but within a short walk of a block or two.  With the exception of large events, like the Christmas parade, there is always a place to park if one plans in advance, leaves in time to find a place to park, and is willing to walk a block to two.  We should not have to purchase additional parking lots to accommodate events that only occur once or twice a year.

Heidi McClelland

I don’t think the resources of Saline are best spent on issuing parking tickets.  As a downtown resident there are plenty of places to park in town.  Not everyone is aware of them though and I think we could do a better job of utilizing some of the less well known parking lots and making the city even more walkable than it already is.  In Ann Arbor you would be happy to park as close as our farthest parking space.  We want people to want to visit our City and stay in our city to spend their money and their time, not force them out with parking tickets. I’d like to see us utilize the existing parking more efficiently before spending more of the taxpayers money on acquiring new property for parking. 

Tran Longmoore's picture
Tran Longmoore
Tran Longmoore is a veteran community journalist. He is founder and owner of TheSalinePost.com. He is co-publisher of The Saline Post weekly newspaper. Email him at [email protected] or call him at 734-272-6294.

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