Downtown Farmington residents get parking permits

Farmington officials on Monday agreed to give residents living in the historic Cook building temporary relief from new parking restrictions in the lot just north of their building.

Mayor Bill Galvin cast the lone vote against issuing four Saturday-only permits valid until the end of each tenant’s lease. Recommended by the city’s Parking Advisory Committee, the permits will allow them to park in excess of the city-owned parking lot’s 3-hour time limit, which is in effect Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m.

“My biggest concern is we’re giving away city property for free,” Galvin said. “For at least one day of the week, the Cook building will have its current footprint plus four parking spaces. I’m not here to give away city property.” He said the city and the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) need to come up with more parking capacity, specifically in the north lot.

City manager David Murphy said he proposed the temporary permits after the committee voted against allowing tenants to continue parking in the lot on a permanent basis. Louay Jardack, who co-owns a portion of the building, asked committee members for help last month. His tenants had previously parked in the back row of the lot, which became time-limited in February, and he believes he will lose them without parking.

“If we did not find there was parking for this building in the back, we would not invest here,” Jardack told council members. “I’m losing my building because there’s a decision made to me that is not fair. I don’t want areas reserved for me. I want it to just stay as it was when we bought the building.”

Murphy said tenants could park at the untimed Masonic Hall or Maxfield Training Center lots, or Jardack could work out an arrangement with owners of private parking lots. He said the Parking Advisory Committee is looking at long-term solutions.

Though he voted for the permits, council member Greg Cowley said that the committee will hear at their next meeting about financing for parking decks. He said a “linch pin” of those projects is leasing long-term parking spaces to downtown tenants, and at some point, the city and DDA will have to decide the price of parking.

“The parking committee has said the customer is the most important person, even above residents,” Cowley said. “The ultimate solution here is to expand and increase capacity. Special assessment is going to be part of the discussion, and businesses downtown will have to pony up. Parking is no longer free, and it has to be managed.”

Council members Sara Bowman and Steven Schneemann both appreciated the effort to “soften the blow” for tenants. But both also noted the need for longer term solutions.

“I like the idea that we’re not having this hard line any more,” Bowman said, “but what are we doing to immediately start looking at a long-term solution? This is a Band-Aid.”