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Eying development, Marlborough weighs parking changes

METRO WEST DAILY NEWS – City officials and regional planners met Thursday night to put their heads together on ways to reform downtown parking ahead of a possible zoning change that may bring more development to the center of the city.

The City Council on Monday will take up a proposal to create a new zoning district downtown. The zoning change is meant to revitalize downtown and spur development, but also changes parking requirements for new development. To be ready for a future influx of cars downtown from new development, city officials say they want to put together a new set of parking regulations.

Under the proposed zoning, which will likely be sent off to a committee for review Monday, parking requirements would be relaxed for developers of residential and commercial properties.

Regional planners from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, who helped a study committee draft the zoning proposal, told city officials that parking downtown – especially in the two garages – is underused. Because there is space left available in the lots, those parking spots could be used by residents in new downtown developments or downtown employees.

With nearly 900 available parking spots downtown, only about 525 of those might be full at peak times, Jessica Robertson, MAPC transportation coordinator told city officials Thursday night. With so much parking left over, the city can ease parking requirements for new development and allow developers to count those spots instead of creating new parking in an already saturated area, she said.

“There is a lot of parking capacity and it is underutilized,” she said. “Marlborough has a lot more spaces in a much smaller area than a lot of your neighbors.”

The zoning proposal calls for a payment-in-lieu-of-parking system, wherein a residential developer could pay the city $10,000 per spot in lieu of creating parking. Commercial developers would not be obligated to create any new parking, while requirements would be relaxed for some other establishments.

Some proposals for new downtown parking regulations include a permitting system for parking in the garages and some other spots downtown for residents or downtown employees.
Creating a permit system would likely mean ramping up parking enforcement, Robertson said.

Lynn Faust, a member of the Community Development Authority, which owns the two parking decks and other downtown lots, said she is wary of instituting too many changes all at once. City Councilor Joseph Delano said any parking changes need to be carefully considered.

I think we need to have a comprehensive plan and figure out how to roll it out,” Delano said. “The one thing that can kill (the proposed downtown zoning) is the parking.”

Mayor Arthur Vigeant said he has been considering raising the fee for parking violations in the two-hour parking areas from $10 to $25 or $30. He asked whether he should make that move now or wait until the parking review is over. Members of the roundtable meeting told him they believed he could go ahead and make the change. Vigeant said he would also look into improving lighting and signs for the garages.

This article by Kendall Hatch originally appeared here.