No relief in sight for downtown residents who lost parking

Residents who live in four downtown Farmington apartments will likely not get permission to continue longer term parking in a city-owned lot behind the iconic Cook building on the north side of Grand River.

That worries Louay Jardack, who co-owns a portion of the building. He asked Parking Advisory Committee members Wednesday to provide some relief for his tenants and predicted dire consequences if they don’t get it.

“I do believe strongly, if I lose the parking, I guarantee everybody here the Cook building will be empty sooner or later,” he said. “It’s going to hurt us.”

City officials last year enacted 3-hour time limits in most of the north parking lot, but residents and business owners could park longer in a row of spaces at the north edge. The 3-hour limit was extended earlier this month, after Public Safety Director Frank Demers presented a time-lapse video that showed almost no turnover in those spaces. While council member Steven Schneemann raised concerns at that time about apartment residents, others felt allowing exceptions would raise issues of fairness.

Apartment residents spoke during public comment at Monday’s city council meeting, and showed up for the Wednesday meeting. Jeff Hill noted that most residents work during the day, so any spaces reserved for tenants would be open for businesses. Jo Cheadle said there was no communication with residents about changes to parking.

“I don’t think anybody has asked anybody who lives here about solutions,” she said. “I just want to be invited in a conversation about other options.”

Committee member Joe Mantey, who holds a Master’s degree in natural resource economics, said parking is a scarce resource that has no price. If someone’s car breaks down in the parking lot, he said, there’s no incentive to move it, and the result is a cost to everyone else.

Committee member Greg Cowley, who is also a city council member and downtown business owner, said that giving residents permits to park would open a “Pandora’s box,” with business owners demanding them as well. He asked Jardack to think about whether he would be willing to buy parking spaces, and asked tenants to think about what they might be willing to pay to have dedicated parking.

Diane Cassidy, who owns Cook building tenant Salon Legato, said last year’s business-driven petition drive for parking relief in the north lot didn’t include the residents. She said they were “never part of the problem.”

“I don’t see why they should be caught in the crossfire,” she said. “Residents should be allowed to stay…They should not be bargaining chips to waylay the business complainers.”

Committee chair Elizabeth Turton pointed out the issue was not on the evening’s agenda. She said it would be discussed more formally at a future meeting.

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