Downtown parking continues to be a troublesome issue for Saline City Council.
At Monday’s meeting, council voted 7-0 on a motion that will create 10-15 parking spaces on the streets of downtown Saline. Council also heard City Manager Todd Campbell say that he’s in contact with downtown churches to discuss ways to partner to use their spaces. That news was well received by council.
But there consternation at the table when Campbell mentioned to council that he was putting together information to get bids on a downtown parking study.
Early in the meeting, council unanimously passed a traffic control order which rescinds older traffic control orders that prohibited parking on certain streets.
Traffic order 2381 also removes parking restrictions on the south side of West McKay Street between Lewis Street and municipal lot five. Two of the rescinded traffic orders prohibited on-street parking on North and South Lewis Street.
Councillor Heidi McClelland said that she hoped parking on both sides of the street might slow down drivers in the neighborhood who use Lewis Street as a short cut.
Although West McKay Street is posted as “no parking,” DPW Director Jeff Fordice and his staff could find no traffic orders to that effect. The new traffic order makes it clear that parking is allowed.
“The action we are taking is not a game changer, it’s a drop in the bucket,” Mayor Brian Marl said.
Councillor Dean Girbach said he hopes the city will stripe parking spaces like it recently did on West Henry Street.
Fordice said the striped places seem to let people know they can park places where it might not always be entirely obvious.
Later in the meeting, City Manager Campbell updated council on downtown parking developments.
In August, Saline Main Street officials presented a parking plan that, among other thing, called for two-hour parking in the downtown Saline lots, and regular city enforcement. Wally MacNeil, owner of Mac’s Acadian Seafood Shack, said the parking situation would near a crisis point when Smoke 52 opened. Council seemed to agree with MacNeil’s assessment. But at the very next meeting, when discussing the cost of enforcing the stricter limits, council was considerably cooler to the idea.
Main Street also recommended the city work with downtown churches and Key Bank to utilize their considerable parking resources. Campbell reported that Trinity Lutheran Church was supportive of the city’s desire to partner. Campbell also reported he was scheduled to meet with St. Paul’s church officials this week. Campbell also contacted Key Bank with an offer and said he expected to hear something soon.
The discussion turned when Campbell said he was looking for council’s direction to proceed with a parking study.
Councillors Christen Mitchell and Janet Dillon did not speak supportively of the idea.
“We just had Main Street do a study. What is the purpose of the study and how much would it cost?” Mitchell asked.
Campbell said he was not sure how much the study would cost, but said the study he envisioned would be similar to the 2002 Carlisle/Wortman parking study that is still referenced today. He said a new study could confirm what Saline Main Street found while helping Saline find long-term solutions.
“We can use their expertise to help us move in a new direction. What are our needs and how do we get from point a to point b?” Campbell said. “Is it simply partnering, what we’re doing right now? Is it developing the facilities usage plan for that northwest quadrant, as recommended by Main Street? Or is it something bigger? Is it some scale of a parking structure, whether small or large? That’s what we’re trying to figure out.”
Marl said that MacNeil invested a lot of time assisting Main Street and presenting the parking recommendations to council.
“One of the things Wally and I discussed is that the analysis they referenced in the study dates back to the 2000s. There are a lot of good recommendations in that document. It’s a little stale and a little dated,” Marl said. “It would be valuable and helpful to have some of the points Main Street made confirmed or challenged by updating a downtown parking analysis. Conducting a timely, thorough, all-inclusive analysis of our downtown parking needs as been a strategic goal of the city for a couple of years.”
Marl said he thought it was important to let the city manager proceed and bring back a recommendation to council.
Councillor Dillon said she wouldn’t be comfortable with that idea until she knew the cost. She seemed to question the value of a new study when council “chose to disregard” data in the old study.
“I don’t to make another investment in something that, if it’s something we don’t want to hear, we’ll choose to not follow,” Dillon said.
Dillon said council has changed its direction on parking several times.
“Why don’t see if these annexed parking lots ease the pressure before we invest (in a study)?” Dillon said.
Marl pointed out that council would still have the ability to vote against a motion to hire a firm to study the issue.
The discussion ended there.