Council discusses parking ‘problem’ Also, borough applauds Eagle Scout project

By on June 29, 2011

By: GARY P. KLINGER Record Express Correspondent, Staff Writer

The findings of a study jointly sponsored by Lititz Borough and Venture Lititz revealed that while the borough does not have a parking shortage per se, it does have a perceived parking problem indicating some areas for improvement.

Carrie Krasnow from Walker Parking Consultants presented borough council with a summary of the report. One key question examined whether or not the current parking supply was adequate to support modest growth. The study indicated that it does. It appears that parking is adequate for now, with those visiting the downtown district usually able to find a space within a block or two of a destination. It was determined that owners of private parking lots are generally good neighbors who don’t mind if non-patrons use their lots for short periods of time.

But while locals may have the system figured out, those from out of town often find the parking system in Lititz a bit difficult to navigate.

"This is a much harder system to navigate if you are not from here," noted Krasnow, citing her own experience visiting Lititz. "Knowing where you can and cannot park is not entirely clear."

Local residents and business owners were surveyed as part of the study to better understand the needs, concerns, even perceptions of those using downtown parking. Krasnow identified some common themes in her findings, namely a nearly equal split as to whether Lititz is in need of a parking garage or not. The majority pointed to the low parking rate charged on meters as a plus, even though the study does recommend the borough consider raising those rates from the current $.25 to $.50 while simultaneously raising the expired meter fine to $15.

In looking at occupancy rates, Krasnow said several "tight" areas were identified, but adequate parking was generally available within a block or two in those areas.

There is, however, surplus parking found in the various private lots across town. Technically not open to visitor parking, these lots could provide upwards of 30 unused spaces.

"This is a key finding," said Krasnow. "We identified 1,200 spaces available within the studied nine block core. Parking is busy, but 35 on-street spaces were available to the public. We also found that on average 180 spaces within that core were empty during the survey."

Krasnow does not advocate Lititz building a parking garage, at least not in the near future. She said building such a structure, conservatively, could cost upwards of $4.5 million. In addition, the daily cost to operate a parking garage is at roughly $6 per space per day, translating into 25 occupants of every space, every day. A more cost effective option, Krasnow suggested, was for the borough to begin establishing new agreements with private lot owners to lease some or all of their unused parking spaces at a significantly reduced daily cost.

Council voiced concerns that with a flourishing restaurant industry in the downtown, the potential for hundreds of cars during a banquet or other large gathering could prove problematic. In the longer term, the demands upon the parking supply caused by the redevelopment of the Bomberger site, and smaller developments along Kleine Lane and Cedar Street, could result in a reduction of parking. Krasnow agreed that large scale development will require parking, but the amount and timing of those needs would depend on the specifics of the various plans.

"Until then, maximizing use of existing resources would allow for smaller scale growth without encumbering a garage," explained Krasnow. "I’m not a fan of the ‘build it and they will come’ school of thought with regard to parking garages. Generally such a garage will sit empty, go unused and cost you a lot of money."

Under the suggestions of the study, the borough would look at leasing parts or all of existing private lots, taking on the liability and operating costs associated with such an agreement. This would be most cost effective for the borough and make such an arrangement more attractive to lot owners. With agreement terms which would include provisions for valet parking as well as parking for employees, Krasnow knows from her experience in other towns and cities across the country that such agreements are a win for everyone.

"There are so many options and so many ways of structuring these agreements," she explained. "These would be independent agreements structured around the number of spaces, availability and needs of the owner, while affording them reduced liability. They can even be flexible around things like evenings and weekends."

In addition to raising the rates charged at parking meters and the fines levied for allowing a meter to expire, Krasnow said her study recommends better and more consistent enforcement of expired meter rules.

The big issue identified by the study was the need for the borough and Venture Lititz to take the findings to the next level by assembling a small group charged with spear-heading parking management.

"There is no need to create a big apparatus, but simply a central resource to guide the effort," said Krasnow. "As your parking system grows, then eventually a parking manager position would be appropriate to oversee the day to day operation of the district’s parking system."

Council member Todd Fulginiti questioned Krasnow on her recommendation.

"Are you recommending we find someone to negotiate agreements between the private lot owners and the borough?"

Krasnow indicated that would be a very good idea and suggested the work be done in-house with current borough resources.

"That would be my vision to coordinate with Venture Lititz and the borough and the business owners to create a shared response to this," noted Council President Karen Weibel. She added that she liked Krasnow’s suggestion of a website with parking information along with maps and even printed maps to help those from outside the community.

At Weibel’s suggestion, council will look to Venture Lititz to head up the next phase of the study, including the formation of a small group to better manage and understand the Lititz parking supply.

Eagle Scout Project

In other borough business, Eagle Scout candidate Andrew Beck reported on the completion of his project. Last autumn council gave Beck approval to construct and install color coded bands on each of the borough’s fire hydrants. The color coding creates a visual cue to fire fighters of a particular hydrant’s power and strength. Blue is the strongest, with green the next strongest, orange then red. Mayor and fire chief Ron Oettel noted that the borough does not have any "red" level fire hydrants within borough limits.

Beck’s energy and enthusiasm for his project was contagious as each member of council expressed their thanks and appreciation for a job well done. They each credited his leadership and planning in successfully completing the job.

"This was much more time consuming than I anticipated," said Beck. "I measured each and every hydrant after I found that not every hydrant was the same."

Beck emphatically thanked Home Depot, Paul B. Zimmerman Hardware and Tom Benjamin of the Lititz Sign Company for generously donating time, material and expertise. In particular, Beck noted the efforts of Benjamin in going above and beyond in order to help make Beck’s dream a reality.

According to Beck, once each hydrant was measured, it was logged onto a map he created for use the day of installation. Each hydrant and each color coded band was then labeled so that when his team of 20 friends, family and fellow scouts began installation it would go quickly and smoothly.

That effort paid off mightily. While it took Beck approximately 200 total man hours to fabricate the bands, it took just over 30 minutes to install the whole lot.

Weibel likewise congratulated Beck on the fine job he had done.

"This has been a great effort," she said. "Nice work and a job very well done. I’m very happy that it has come to this conclusion and your pre-planning has definitely paid off."

Beck concluded his remarks to council by sharing the significance of this project to him personally. He explained that his grandfather had recently passed away from terminal cancer. It was his grandfather’s wish that Andrew earn his Eagle Scout. He also explained that he wanted his Eagle Scout project to have the maximum impact on the community and not something like a park bench. And he said his project may have now opened up another project for another Eagle Scout candidates within his troop to consider. More BOROUGH COUNCIL, page A16

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