Mayor Steven Percival makes a point about the parking plan. Photos by Phil Custodio
BY PHIL CUSTODIO
Clarkston News Editor
City officials will hit the road for more information after business owners and residents blasted a plan for downtown paid parking.
“We’re here to talk about it – this gives us a base point to work on it,” said Mayor Steven Percival at the March 13 City Council meeting. “We’ll all continue to work on this to try to come up with the right solution.”
The proposed plan was to reach an agreement with the owners of the Clarkston Mills to reopen their two lots for paid parking; purchase and install a paid-parking system in the city’s two parking lots, next to Depot Park and at Main and Washington streets; create “permit parking only” zones on selected residential streets; establish plans for paid-parking income, including enforcement, maintenance, additional lots, and city hall renovations; and leave Main Street and other street parking free.
Curt Catallo, an owner of Union Joint restaurants, said the paid-parking plan would be in effect in the evening after normal business hours, and appears to be a restaurant tax.
“It specifically attacks the hours of restaurant operations,” Catallo said. “Four to 10 is a very specific window. There aren’t a lot of real estate deals and haircuts going on – a lot of people are coming into the community to eat between 4-10.”
All-day paid parking has been considered, Percival said.
The evening is when parking is scarce in the city, said resident Karen Eckert, who was not opposed to the paid parking plan.
“This parking problem didn’t start when (Mills property owner Ed) Adler closed the lot,” Eckert said. “We’ve been talking about this for several years. We allowed a lot of businesses to open in this town without parking lots. We created this problem on our own.”
The city’s parking ordinance requires restaurant site plans include 0.6 spaces per seat.
City Council granted parking waivers to the Honcho Union Joints restaurant, which opened last year and seats 95 patrons inside and 20 outside, and a restaurant in the former bank at 15 S. Main Street, which is set to open this spring and seats 185 inside and 20 outside.
The estimated parking requirement for the former bank was 123 vehicles, using the ordinance ratio. Parking requirement for Honcho’s was 69 vehicles, based on the ordinance.
The Honcho site plan showed six on-street parking spaces on Church and Main streets. The former bank has no parking.
City council approved the restaurants in 2015, and granted exemptions under ordinance Section 20.02U, General Requirements, Parking Space Deferment. Exemptions are granted “if the applicant can demonstrate and the Planning Commission finds that adequate public parking is provided within a reasonable walking distance from the subject site.”
The spring opening of the new Main Street restaurant creates a deadline for solving the parking issue, Percival said.
“We are up against a brick wall – we don’t have all the parking spaces we need,” said the mayor, who was elected last year. “The deferred parking zone was supposed to generate funds to do that. We blew that. We didn’t do that. We’re now backed into corner. We allowed the new restaurants to come in but not have the spaces to park. We have to take a stand.”
The paid-parking plan would generate an estimated $136,210 in net income, according to the plan.
“We’re being very conservative with that,” Percival said. “That would be a huge plug for the city to pay for repairs, new lots.”
Two years of paid parking could net the city more than $200,000, he said.
“We’re going to sit and let $200,000 go through our hands – that’s criminal in my mind,” Percival said. “It can be 70 cents, or first hour free. As long as we collect revenue, we can start taking care of things. We don’t want it to be restaurant tax. We want as much free parking as possible.”
Council member David Marsh said paid parking puts Clarkston on a slippery slope towards destruction of its village, small-town feel.
“The village is the soul of Clarkston – I don’t want to sell my soul to change it to something else,” Marsh said. “I don’t want to become another Sashabaw corridor just to make extra money. Money is great but the village is better.”
Eckert said if the plan succeeds in generating $200,000-$300,000, residents should benefit with a tax cut.
“We pay 50 percent more property taxes than the township,” she said. “We charge about 12 mills and the township charges about eight.”
Catallo said Union Joints already pays its share for parking, including taxes and maintenance of its lots behind the Union, 23 spots; 49 spots behind the Woodshop; and about 70 spots at 90 N.Main Street.
“We pay more for parking than anybody,” he said. “I don’t think Roth and Adler should open the lot for free. It’s their right. We could do the same thing. To me, it’s not very Clarkston.”
More paid parking would drive patrons into the neighborhood in search of free parking, or away altogether, he said.
“For 22 years, we’ve worked very hard to increase the likability and walkability of Clarkston – add to the vibrancy of Clarkston,” he said. “It’s worked.”
The Union Joints restaurants, all repurposed buildings, have generated national exposure for Clarkston, he said.
“What you have here is something very charming – it can be wrecked so easily,” he said.
Council member Sharron Catallo, who is Curt Catallo’s mother, said they could use the results of paid parking in the Mills lots when it opens later this year, when deciding on municipal paid parking.
“It would give us an idea if we’re heading in the right direction,” she said.
According to city analysis, peak parking downtown after the new restaurant opens will be about 630 vehicles, between 4-7 p.m. City, public parking, and private lots open after business hours have 368 spaces.
The next step should be to gather data from other cities using paid parking, including Birmingham, Farmington, Fenton, and Lake Orion, said Council member Richard Detkowski.
“I suggest we find out all the information everyone brought up and sort through that at the next meeting,” said Sharron Catallo.
City Manager Jonathan Smith said they weren’t trying to force the plan through, and it’s OK if it takes a couple more months.
Council member Sue Wylie said parking congestion in residential areas should be taken care of immediately with more enforcement.