City Commissioner Boog Highberger was right to voice concerns about the city giving up eight public parking spaces to allow the expansion of a building owned by the Fritzel family at 123 W. Eighth St.
Over Highberger's objection, the commission voted 4-1 to give the spaces to the developer so an elevator and stairway could be added to the building.
Now, what are city commissioners going to say when other developers with compelling stories to tell seek approval to expand into a city parking lot? A precedent has been set; if it is OK for the Fritzels to secure space in a city lot, what sound reasons can be cited to deny other developers from receiving similar concessions?
The Fritzel plan calls for the company to pay the city $25,000 for each of the eight parking spaces, but this is a bargain if the elevator and stairs make their building a much more attractive and usable space for individuals or businesses to rent, lease or buy.
One of downtown Lawrence's most pressing needs is for more parking space for customers and employees. Is $25,000 the price tag the city has placed on city parking spaces? If so, can others - perhaps individual retail operations - purchase parking spaces near their businesses for $25,000 per slot?
Just as it is dangerous for the city to set a precedent of allowing private businesses to gain ownership and control over space in a city parking lot, commissioners also need to be extremely careful not to allow any further invasion into any of the city's parks. There are likely to be requests in coming years to allow buildings, communication towers or other structures and facilities to be placed in the city's parks. These open spaces are too precious and too important to allow them to be nibbled away by what some may think are badly needed and justified additions.
It is unfortunate that city commissioners did not pay more attention to Highberger's reasoning on why it was not good policy to give away precious city parking spaces to a private business.