downtown parking

Downtown businesses asked to pick up tab for parking

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green leaders have two months to solve downtown parking issues until their time expires. When the time is up, the cost of parking meters will double in the downtown area if a solution isn’t found. On Tuesday evening, Bowling Green City Council Committee of the Whole listened to a proposal for sharing the costs of parking downtown. This proposal – unlike the initial idea to double meter costs to 50 cents an hour – suggests that all parking meters and kiosks be pulled out, and downtown property and business owners be assessed for parking costs. The problem is that the city isn’t making enough from its downtown parking meters to pay for repaving the lots and enforcing parking rules. But the fear is that doubling parking costs will discourage customers from patronizing downtown businesses. The city’s downtown lots – with their 600-plus parking spaces – are struggling due to flat revenue, increasing costs and aging infrastructure. So the options suggested last month included increasing the parking revenue, sharing the costs of maintaining the parking lots, or getting rid of some of the expenses. Other Ohio college communities such as Kent and Oxford charge up to $1 an hour for parking. Toledo charges at least 50 cents per hour. However, no parking meters are used in Perrysburg, Defiance, Waterville, Findlay or Maumee. Tuesday on City Council’s agenda was the third reading of an ordinance increasing the parking rates. Council agreed to table that ordinance to give a task force time to discuss other options. Council President Mike Aspacher suggested that the task force include downtown property owners and business owners. “It’s a critically important component in the success of our community,” Aspacher said. Council member Greg Robinette stressed the need for the group to work quickly, since the parking kiosks in the lot behind Panera need to be updated by December if the city continues to use the kiosks there. “I’d like to force us to move the process along,” Robinette said, suggesting that the task force be limited to two months. “Time is ticking,” said council member John Zanfardino. The city also needs to repave downtown parking lots 1, 3 and 4. That is estimated to cost $400,000. Under a shared cost program, the downtown property owners would be assessed based on their front footage and the benefits to their parcels. The average property owner would pay $220 a year for 20 years. The lowest amount charged would be $30 a year. The highest – to the owner of multiple properties – would be $2,000 a year. Those assessments would generate about $20,000 a year. The concept of the downtown property owners picking up the tab for parking expenses was not supported by the landowners during a meeting earlier this year. However, the business owners attending the last council meeting stated they would be willing to share in the expenses if it meant customers wouldn’t have to pay for parking. Aspacher and council members Bruce Jeffers and Sandy Rowland stressed the need for business owners to be included in the conversations – not just the property owners. “We need to make sure they are both on the same page,” Aspacher said. While parking would be free to motorists under this proposal,…


Cheap parking in downtown BG may soon expire

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Patience has expired with the current parking meter fees to pay for downtown park lot expenses. So on Monday evening, Bowling Green City Council will hear the first reading of an ordinance to double the parking fees from 25 cents to 50 cents per hour. The price hike is proposed because the current parking rates are failing to pay for on-street and off-street public parking expenses in the downtown, explained Assistant Municipal Administrator Joe Fawcett. All the nickels, dimes and quarters – plus a portion of the parking fines – are supposed to pay for the parking paving, maintenance, enforcement personnel and equipment, parking meters, kiosks, and taxes on the lots. The downtown parking fund gets no support from other city funds. The city’s 2018 budget projected a $21,000 deficit in the parking fund. That hole was filled by the fund’s balance, but that balance is dropping steadily, Fawcett said Friday afternoon. Also looming over the parking budget is the fact that three of the four downtown parking lots need to be paved soon. The only one to be repaved since 2000 is Lot 2,  behind Panera. The proposed fee hikes should not come as a surprise to downtown merchants or the organization which represents them, Fawcett said. “We’ve been trying to tell people as much as we can,” he said. “This is the culmination of conversations over the last couple years.” Downtown businesses were advised of the proposed parking fee hike on City Council’s agenda. “No one seemed surprised by that,” Fawcett said. City officials hope customers coming downtown are not put off by the doubling of the parking fee. Though some may try to avoid pay parking, Fawcett said Bowling Green’s parking will still be a bargain compared to other cities in the region. “We looked around the entire area. Even at 50 cents an hour, we are very competitive,” he said. For at least six years, the parking lot revenue has had difficulty keeping up with the expenses, Fawcett said. In 2013 and 2015, the revenue “just barely” surpassed expenses. In 2014, the city broke even. The last three years, the expenses have been higher than the incoming coins. “It has always been close,” he said. The parking fees, plus a portion of the parking ticket revenue averages about $220,000 a year, Fawcett said. The fee hike is expected to help the fund recover. “I think it would likely provide a temporary relief for that fund,” he said. The parking ticket fees will not be increased. But the long-term parking charges used by apartment renters or businesses downtown are proposed to double. For example, the rate for one space for half a year will jump from $130 to $260. The city’s goal was to gradually change all downtown city parking lots to kiosks rather than metered parking. The lot behind Panera is the city’s first experiment with parking kiosks. “Our desire is to make paying for parking as easy as possible for people,” Fawcett said. If kiosk parking is expanded to other city lots, it’s doubtful it will be the same type as already used in Lot 2, he said. At that point, Lot 2 would be retrofitted to be the same as the other lots. “The ones we…