Letter: Weak Justifications Offered For Rezoning Lot For Parking Garage

Aerial view of town parking lot behind CVS. Photo: Google Maps

The following letter was sent to the Community Resources Committee of the Town Council on November 8, 2021

I’ve attended every meeting of the Community Resources Committee (CRC) and the Planning Board (PB) at which the proposed rezoning of Map 14A, Parcel 33 has been on the agenda. At various points during these meetings, members have justified the selection of Parcel 33 for a parking structure on the basis of assumptions that are not borne out by the facts on the ground.

The Surface Parking Lot At Parcel 33 Is Under-Utilized, Especially At Night
At the October 20 Planning Board (PB) meeting, in response to a North Prospect Street resident expressing concern about late night noise and car lights from a parking garage on a narrow residential street, Planning Board member Thom Long commented that residents are already dealing with car lights and noise, since they live across the street from a parking lot. Mr. Long’s response reflected an assumption that pedestrians and cars are regularly going in and out of the Town owned lot behind CVS. In fact, that parking lot rarely has more than a handful of cars (many spaces remain empty), and almost no cars park there at night. Which begs the question of why the need for a parking garage at a location where the existing surface lot is under-utilized.

Parking Needs Misrepresented
At the October 27 CRC meeting, Councilman George Ryan stated that the garage is needed for: Hair by Harlow, Henion Bakery, Share Coffee, Zanna’s, and the Toy Box. (He cited these businesses by name.) I’ve been going to Hair by Harlow for 10 years and always find ample parking in the lot behind the salon. I patronize Henion and Share Coffee several times a week and always find parking on the street within half a block of the establishments. Same for Zanna’s and the Toy Box – I can always park in front (though both shops also have a parking lot behind the building they share).

This is not to say that the parking situation downtown shouldn’t be improved, but I can’t imagine going to the trouble of parking in a multi-level garage on North Prospect Street just to run into Henion for a loaf of bread or to grab a coffee at Share (especially since there’s always available on-street parking much closer to both establishments).

Why The Rush?
I’m confused by the urgency to designate Parcel 33 an overlay parking facility district since, over the next two or more years, the location will be the staging area for the new library. Therefore, construction of the proposed garage can’t even begin until after the library is completed.

The proximity to the library also raises the question – do we really want the large north-facing windows of the new wing looking out onto a parking garage? (Not the most aesthetically pleasing vista.)

What Will Be The Net Increase In Short-Term Parking Spaces Available To Patrons Of Downtown Businesses After Accounting For The Spaces That Will Be Leased On A Monthly Basis To Tenants Of Nearby Apartments?
From what I understand, some portion of the parking spaces in a new garage will be leased on a monthly basis to tenants of downtown apartments. Once those spaces are deducted from the total, what will be the net gain in parking spaces available to patrons of downtown businesses? (Net gain taking into account the elimination of all the parking spaces on the current surface lot on Parcel 33.)

Conclusion
Let’s not make important rezoning decisions based upon assumptions that not borne out by the facts on the ground. And, if increasing the number of downtown parking spaces is such an urgent need, why select a location where construction of the new garage cannot even begin for another two to three years?


Jennifer Taub

Jennifer Taub is the newly elected Town Councilor from District 3

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5 thoughts on “Letter: Weak Justifications Offered For Rezoning Lot For Parking Garage

  1. Jennifer Taub speaks common sense, providing logic and solid reasoning for her arguments. I’m not seeing the same common sense being presented by proponents of a parking garage in the town-owned portion of the parking lot behind CVS. I look forward to Ms. Taub’s presence and voice on the Council and hope we will begin to see residents be better represented by the legislative body.

  2. I regularly use the parking lot behind CVS in Amherst downtown and my experience is that it is usually full or very close to full. I often have to wait for someone to pull out to have a space to park. A parking garage at this location makes a great of sense to me.

  3. The CVS lot is owned by CVS and is free for CVS customers, so is often full. The town owns the adjacent lot to the north of CVS – this is parcel 33 and listed on the Town website as the N. Pleasant Street Public Lot. I believe it costs 50 cents an hour to park there. The N. Pleasant Street lot is where the proposed parking structure would be built. That lot is rarely full.

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