Planning Board tasked with parking problems

Published 6:17 pm Monday, January 18, 2016

A downtown parking issue is being sent to the Washington Planning Board for study and recommendations.

During its meeting Monday, the City Council decided to have the Planning Board explore off-street parking in the downtown area for people who live in the upper floors of commercial buildings. The board’s review is expected to include whether the city should sell or lease parking spaces that would be used by people living in those upper floors.

City Manager Bobby Roberson told the council that if the city wants to pursue multi-family dwellings in certain areas of the city, including the central business district, and encourage people to live in the upper floors of downtown buildings, it must address the issue of off-street parking to accommodate residents of those dwellings.

“We’ve had numerous folks come in of late and inquire about buildings inside the central business district. The first thing they ask us, after they look at the buildings, is ‘What about the parking? Do we have any parking?’ I’m saying if, in fact, as you well know, no parking spaces are required, but I’ve talked to several lenders, and they’ve suggested … if in fact we’re going to promote multi-family inside the central business district, specifically on the second and third floors, you need to have parking accommodations for those individuals,” Roberson said.

Roberson suggested the council ask the Planning Board to research the issue, including finding out how other cities and towns address the matter, and provide the council with feedback and possible options regarding off-street parking.

Mayor Mac Hodges said, “When you’re obtaining loans for appointments, financers get squeamish when you don’t have a dedicated parking place and you might end up parking on the street.”

Councilman Doug Mercer said if city officials are talking solely about multi-family dwellings with the central business district (downtown area), “the question is how many potential dwelling units would we have?”

Roberson replied, “We have three buildings currently being looked at by investors.” Those investors are relying on the possibility of tax credits available for renovating buildings in the historic district, he noted. A bill in the North Carolina General Assembly would allow such tax credits.

Mercer said there are about 20 buildings in the central business district that could be used for multi-family dwellings. Roberson concurred, noting that at least one developer expressed interest in the former Jowdy Building. “We talked about a microbrewery. We talked about multi-family on the second floor. I talked to three different lenders. I haven’t talked with his lender. … I know that three lenders have told me specifically if you want to do multi-family dwellings inside the central business district, based on other communities, that they would not lend money unless they’re guaranteed parking for the tenants who are going to occupy the units. That’s basically what they told me.”

Roberson said the former Nations Bank building has attracted the attention of several possible developers. “We’ve had three individuals look at that structure. Fortunately for them, they own the parking that’s directly across from the Ingalls printing shop,” he said.

People interested in possibly obtaining the former Belk building for multi-family residential development on the upper floors have raised the issue of off-street parking, Roberson said.

Mercer said it appears to him the city would have to sell parking spaces to a developer wanting to provide off-street parking for such tenants. Roberson said the city also could lease such parking spaces.

“I don’t know what the answer is,” Roberson said. “That’s why I’m going to ask the council to ask the Planning Board to do an investigation about off-street parking for multi-family (dwellings) and hotels inside the central business district where no parking spaces are currently required.”

Councilman Richard Brooks said he’d like to see plans detailing where off-street parking for residents of multi-family dwellings would be located in the downtown area.

If the city is going to encourage residential use of the upper floors of downtown buildings, it must address related parking issues, he said. “The question is where you want to put it?” Roberson said.






About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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