Council mulls parking rules

Written by Sean Janssen, The Union Democrat September 19, 2012 02:11 pm

Angels Camp may introduce a new off-street parking ordinance next month but at least some City Council members won’t go for it as it is now proposed.

The ordinance sets parameters for how many parking spaces are required of a variety of different land uses permitted in the city’s boundaries.

 

Most commercial guidelines are based on square feet of floor area and the new ordinance is more specific. For example, current ordinance requires 1.2 spaces per 200 square feet at restaurants. The new ordinance asks for one space for every 75 square feet of gross floor area for customers, a space for every 300 square feet of service area and a space for every 100 square feet of outdoor dining area.

The ordinance also sets requirements for driveway and site access as well as off-street loading and unloading.

The council voted 4-1 Tuesday to advance the ordinance to a public hearing at its Oct. 16 meeting.

Councilman Scott Behiel cast the dissenting vote.

Behiel said he could go along with the new ordinance, save for one crucial sticking point, “the sheer number of spaces required” for some new businesses is too burdensome.

“If we’re going to add a heavy burden to businesses, we need to have a better reason other than we’re reorganizing our structure,” Behiel said. “I can’t support this … the business owner knows how many parking spots are required for his or her business.”

He suggested the proposed ordinance and the existing one be compared head-to-head and any requirements that add cost for new businesses be scaled back.

The new ordinance has many more detailed classifications for land uses that generate parking requirements.

 “I think the new ordinance has less flexibility,” Behiel said. “I think the old one leaves more room for interpretation.”

Councilman Stuart Raggio said he was inclined to agree with Behiel’s line of thought.

“I want to see it made easier,” Raggio said. “We don’t need to make anything harder to start a new business here.”

However, Councilman Roger Neuman came to the defense of the new ordinance, adding that it had been vetted in meetings of Destination Angels Camp, the city’s public-private economic development corporation.

“I don’t think there’s ever going to be exact consensus in a parking ordinance. It’s just not there,” Neuman said. “I think you need to have the most reasonable plan … it’s more of a headache when you don’t have anything to start with.”

City Administrator Michael McHatten said the existing ordinance is simply inadequate.

“The number one complaint I receive at City Hall is Frog Jump Plaza. Absent standards, you have what you get at that place,” McHatten said, referring to the shopping center notoriously difficult to enter and exit in the city’s north end. “We don’t want to be more onerous on business ... but we have to have a standard that everyone can live with. We want to build a better ordinance than the one that was created in 1984 that does not work any longer.”

City Planning Director David Hanham noted the new ordinance’s parking requirements are lessened for some types of businesses, citing banks as one example. Banks would be required to have one parking space for every 300 square feet of floor under the new ordinance. They now must have one for every 250 square feet. 

“The way the two ordinances are set up, they’re very, very different ... they’re not necessarily more or less restrictive,” Hanham said.

Mayor Elaine Morris favored the specificity of the proposed ordinance.

“I think every ordinance has to spell out the requirements so they’re understandable,” Morris said. “The parking requirements didn’t come from thin air.”

Hanham said that the specifications were derived from the Institute of Transportation Engineers, an international educational and scientific association designated by the U.S. Department of Transportation to develop such standards.

The majority sided with Neuman’s motion to take the ordinance to a formal public hearing.

“Let’s see if the public comes in,” he said. “Let’s see what the Angels Camp Business Association and DAC have to say about it.”

Behiel said existing businesses may not be so mindful of the burdens potential entrepreneurs could face.

“It’s really difficult for the public to stand up for future businesses,” he said.