Parking still hot topic in city

Business owner Curt Catallo shares with the parking committee comparisons of nearby communities with Clarkston. Photo by Phil Custodio

BY PHIL CUSTODIO
Clarkston News Editor
The opening sentence of a Modified Parking Proposal for Clarkston slanders local businesses and customers, according to local attorney Neil Wallace.
“The accusation in the opening line is a bridge too far – it lays it on patrons and employees,” said Wallace, who represents restaurant owner Curt Catallo, at the July 31 meeting of the Clarkston Parking Management Committee. “That accusation should not be in there. That’s slander to say that.”
The opening line of the proposal is “parking by business patrons and employees has caused unsafe conditions to the residential streets of the East Village, particularly E. Washington, east of Buffalo; E. Church, east of Buffalo; and Buffalo, south of Church.”
“Calling our guests and employees marauders, we take it personally,” said Catallo.
Committee member Scott Reynolds said the parking issue is about safety.
“Buffalo is kind of an hourglass, a funnel, wider at Washington and Church – the center section is where it gets tighter,” he said.
City engineer Gary Tressel said roads need to be at least 18 feet wide for two way traffic. Buffalo Street’s current width is less than 23 feet. With vehicles being about eight feet wide, the road is not wide enough for parking.
“I could not be an expert witness for the city in court if there was an accident,” Tressel said. “We’ve advised you, there’s an issue. No engineering firm would probably represent you.”
City Council kicked the parking proposal, written by council members Sue Wylie and David Marsh, back to the committee at its July 22 meeting.
“After four council members voted ‘no’ on paid parking at the previous meeting (July 8), I wanted to get paid parking back in front of council,” Wylie said after the meeting.
“We are back in business, I guess, for a review of a proposal put in front of the council last week,” said committee member Joe Luginski at the July 31 committee meeting.
Marsh, also a member of the parking committee, included in the proposal converting all two-hour and unlimited parking zones to three-hour parking; and limit parking on the angled parking spaces on Depot Road to one hour.
“The Depot lot (city owned) is going to go paid parking at some point – it creates issues,” Marsh said. “It would push parking into residential areas.”
In that case, three-hour parking would encourage employees to park outside the downtown area, he said.
“It would be better for businesses and residents, with not as much parking on Washington,” he said.
Committee member Scott Reynolds said converting two-hour free parking to three hours was not something the committee considered previously, and would be difficult to enforce.
The proposal also included changing E. Washington east of Buffalo, E. Church east of Buffalo, and Buffalo south of Church to resident-only parking.
Reynolds, also a member of the City Council, said converting the east village to resident-only parking doesn’t seem practical.
“Where’s the limit,” he asked. “It raises a whole other series of discussion – I have a hard time working through it. It doesn’t seem very community to me.”
Catallo, owner of the Union, Woodshop, and Honcho restaurants on Main Street, said they are morphing from a parking to a no-parking committee.
“We built these businesses with the understanding this was public parking,” he said.
Their employees park in the Clarkston United Methodist Church lot, courtesy of the church, he said.
The Union Joint restaurants also have private parking lots with 63 spaces, along with 75 spaces at their Ad Works building, according to a 2018 city parking study.
Employees and customers of other businesses park in their lots, which are free, Catallo said.
“We share it. We’ve never policed it,” he said. “It would get complicated to police our own parking. It would make the city just about parking.”
Catallo said the lane-width issue serves an agenda of pushing parking to property owners Ed Adler and Robert Roth’s private, paid Mills Mall parking lots.
“If you want cars off it, do it for a reason. Don’t make it subjective,” Catallo said.
The committee was charged with assessing parking everywhere in the village and making recommendations, said Committee member Ann Clifton.
“We looked at Buffalo for purely safety, difficulty of passing, making sure there is parking for residents,” Clifton said. “There was never any ulterior motive other than being afraid of us having some sort of repercussions if something happened.”
A comprehensive parking solution should include keeping open the Mills lots, which have about 150 spots off Depot Road, through a long-term agreement with their owners, Reynolds said.
“Discussion on the long-term agreement was starting to happen – we’ve had good meetings with them (Adler and Roth),” he said. “Their request to the city was to create parity of parking lots, with the Depot lot becoming paid.”
Marsh said the Mills lots are usually empty towards the back, and was also concerned with the proposed long-term agreement.
“If Depot is paid parking, that’s what they want. Why approve that and not have a bargaining chip left,” he asked. “It would give away the city’s leverage.”
“We need those lots open more than they need revenue,” Reynolds said. “If they are shut down, where do those vehicles go? It would be better to work towards keeping them open.”
Luginski said they are looking at the parking issue holistically.
“There’s no agreement, no side deals to make cars go to the Roth Adler lots,” he said. “How do we get more parking in the city? What are the options we have?”
Mayor Eric Haven, at the meeting as a member of the audience, said the city also has opportunities for new parking, including lots on the south and east sides of city hall.
The committee has or is considering many other ideas, including vertical or subterranean parking, and valet service, Reynolds said.
The committee adjourned without action.
“We are not even close to making a recommendation,” Clifton said.