City Hall

City Hall

Downtown property owners respond to expanded parking plan

September 18, 2012


City Manager David Corliss said he can’t say with certainty that now is the right time to spend $1 million to add 72 new parking spaces in downtown Lawrence.

“But I know now is the right time to ask the question,” Corliss said Tuesday.

Thus far, the answer City Hall largely has received is silence.

Who would pay assessments

Here’s a list of the parcels and their owners who would have assessments of more than $10,000 to pay for a proposed 72-space, $1 million expansion of a planned parking garage at the Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vt.

Property owners would have the option to pay the amount in one lump sum, or over a 10-year period with interest.

• 612 N.H.: Postal Investors LC, $11,664

• 727 Ky. (Tract 1): City of Lawrence, $54,067

• 727 Ky. (Tract 2): City of Lawrence, $54,168

• 609 N.H.: The World Company, $26,898

• 645 Vt.: United States Postal Service, $27,033

• 700 N.H.: Agree LP, $26,363

• 700 N.H.: City of Lawrence, $11,273

• 734 Vt.: Southwestern Bell Telephone Co., $10,216

• 730 N.H.: 8th and New Hampshire LLC, $10,378

• 800 Vt.: City of Lawrence, $22,146

• 800 N.H.: City of Lawrence, $12,741

• 100 E. Ninth: Compton Rentals LLC, $10,541

• 847 Mass.: 9-10 LC, $10,547

• 927 N.H.: City of Lawrence, $18,186

• 900 Vt.: City of Lawrence, $12,646

• 925 Vt.: Plymouth Congregational Church, $10,600

• 1011 Vt.: Trinity Episcopal Church, $14,797

• 1000 Vt.: City of Lawrence, $10,471

• 1000 N.H.: Allen Realty Inc., $14,731

• 1040 Mass.: Allen Press Inc., $10,525

• 115 W. 11th St.: City of Lawrence, $15,669

• 707 Vt.: City of Lawrence, $54,169

Fewer than 10 property owners and downtown merchants showed up for a Tuesday morning meeting to discuss a proposal to create a special 10-year property tax assessment to pay for an expansion of the proposed parking garage that will be next to the renovated Lawrence Public Library.

City leaders took the lack of large-scale opposition as a sign that downtown businesses understand the importance of having an adequate supply of parking.

“If you have a person try two or three times to find parking and can’t, in their mind, you are out of parking and they don’t come back,” said Mayor Bob Schumm, who is also a restaurant owner in downtown. “And once that happens, it is very hard to erase that perception.”

City officials are proposing to add a special assessment onto the property tax bills of downtown owners to pay for the addition of 72 parking spaces to the proposed library parking garage. The library expansion project includes funding for a 250-space parking garage, but city leaders want to know whether downtown property owners would be willing to fund 72 additional spaces. The city contends the project likely will be cheaper to do now than in the future because construction crews already will be on site.

Under the plan, property owners would pay based on the size of their downtown lot. Currently, the city is proposing owners pay 42.6 cents per square foot of land owned in the downtown district. The city would allow property owners to pay the amount up front or to have the payments spread out over 10 years at an interest rate estimated to be between 1.5 percent to 2.0 percent.

A typical 25-foot wide lot on Massachusetts Street would pay $1,278 or about $130 a year, if paid over a 10-year period.

The amounts will be more significant for owners of larger property. The city estimates there are 22 parcels that will owe more than $10,000 through the special assessment. The city’s proposal would charge all types of property, including churches and other non-profit organizations.

Pat Kehde, a vestry member for Trinity Episcopal Church, said the $14,797 bill for the expansive church at 1011 Vt. would be challenging.

“We’re having a hard time seeing how we benefit from this,” said Kehde. “We understand that this is for the common good of downtown, but it is still a lot of money.”

Corliss said city commissioners do have the ability under state law to shrink the size of the district that is assessed the special tax. But he said state law also says the city should exempt property based on its location, not its use.

Property owners in the downtown do have options for trying to stop the taxing plan. Corliss said the law states if owners of more than 50 percent of the lots in the downtown district and owners of more than 50 percent of the total acreage in the downtown district formally protest the plan through a petition, the special assessment can not proceed.

The city of Lawrence, however, is estimated to own about 35 percent of the property in the downtown district. The city of Lawrence will charge itself the special assessment for the property it owns, meaning the city at-large will pay for about $325,000 of the estimated $1 million parking project. City property such as the library and Watson Park have the largest estimated assessments in the district.

City officials are holding another meeting for downtown property owners and businesses at 7:30 a.m. Thursday at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 N.H. City commissioners are scheduled to hold a public hearing on the taxing plan at their 6:35 p.m. meeting on Sept. 25 at City Hall. Property owners will have 20 days after that hearing to gather enough signatures for a valid protest petition.

Even if a valid protest petition isn’t filed, city commissioners still can still decide to stop the project if they sense significant objections from property owners or businesses.

But some business owners on Tuesday — especially after they learned they could spread the payments over 10 years — said they hoped the city would move forward with the extra parking.

“I’m willing to pay for it,” said Linda Lester, owner of The Etc. Shop, 928 Mass. “I think it is inexpensive parking compared to what we have paid for parking in the past.”


headdoctor 5 years, 5 months ago

I am all out of sympathy for organized religion and they have brought it on by their own doing. If the church can't afford $1400 or $1500 a year that is their problem. They are welcome to dissolve or move elsewhere. Personally I am fed up with church shenanigans while basking in an umbrella of non-profit tax exempt status.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 5 months ago

"The city of Lawrence will charge itself the special assessment for the property it owns, meaning the city at-large will pay for about $325,000 of the estimated $1 million parking project."

This is going to be paid by others than those downtown business owners. Like you,me and all other taxpayers. Which means thousands of local property owners can legitimately sign a petition. All Lawrence property owners are stakeholders.

grimpeur 5 years, 5 months ago

Schumm: “If you have a person try two or three times to find parking and can’t, in their mind, you are out of parking and they don’t come back.”

The answer is: that person might try looking somewhere other than on Mass St. Anyone who can't find a space is simply not looking very hard or lazy as heck. That's why there's a 495-space garage that is within three blocks of every retail establishment downtown.

The idea that three blocks is too far to walk is a sad reminder of the softness of our citizenry. It's not only weak-minded, it's expensive (because it drives construction of more unnecessary parking, which encourages more unnecessary driving) and perpetuates the myth that there is not enough parking downtown. This myth, along with our encouragement to hop in a car and drive every 0.25-mile trip we take because we don't have sufficient sidewalks, transit, or sense of civic responsiblity, is the most expensive problem in Lawrence.

George_Braziller 5 years, 5 months ago

Shumm used to park his "Buffalo" tag truck on Rhode Island Street for ten hours a day so he didn't have to buy a permit. That finally ended when my neighbor reamed his ass about it when she once again couldn't find a parking spot anywhere near her house. His truck was once again eating up the already limited street parking for the people who live on the street.

grimpeur 5 years, 5 months ago

BTW, the garage was about $15,000/space. Back then. Anybody know how many of these precious stalls we're going to give away to private interests?

lunacydetector 5 years, 5 months ago

did the city send out notifications to all the downtown property owners? i bet money they did not.

Take_a_letter_Maria 5 years, 5 months ago

You would lose that bet.

I have a feeling that most of the downtown property owners didn't bother because they either feel like they don't have a REAL say in the matter, or they don't care because their tenants are paying triple net leases so the increase just gets passed along.

headdoctor 5 years, 5 months ago

Yup. lunacydetector would have lost the bet. Besides the triple net leases their are land owners who can see farther than the end of their own nose. There is only so much area downtown to convert to parking. The only way to get more is to stack it. While parking garages may be expensive to build it will be cheaper to do it now as part of an existing project than later at three times the price. It is true that some places farther away may not see any direct benefit but ever car that goes into that garage frees up space elsewhere.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 5 months ago

WE never have a problem finding parking in downtown Lawrence. Sometimes we ride bikes or walk.

Nonetheless we have never had a problem finding parking for downtown Lawrence.

Cai 5 years, 5 months ago

Good for you, merrill. You're just ... perfect.

The rest of us live in the real world, where parking is, and continues to be a problem, particularly during the school year.

Take_a_letter_Maria 5 years, 5 months ago

I hate agreeing with merrill, but in this case I have to as well.

About the only time I've had a problem finding a parking spot within the confines of this tax district is when there is a big event like the band day parade or St. Patrick's day parade. Even then I have no problem finding a spot to park that is within a comfortable walking distance.

deec 5 years, 5 months ago

It's peculiar that the same people (not saying you are one of them) who complain about having to park a block or two away from a downtown store don't mind a bit parking in the back 40 at a megastore and hiking to the entrance. Then they'll stroll endlessly around on the inside of the same megastore looking for the best bargains on plastic gizmos or shoddily-made shoes that will fall apart in a few months.

Patricia Davis 5 years, 5 months ago

The food is really hideous. I'd rather drive to KC for Oklahoma Joe's, where sometimes there is a parking problem. At least you end up with better food and I've never gotten sick eating at OJ's. Wish I could say the same for this downtown place.

Tim Quest 5 years, 5 months ago

There is plenty of parking in downtown Lawrence; people are just lazy and hate walking more than half a block. In any real city, people don't mind walking 3-4 minutes to get where they're going. But god forbid some west Lawrence soccer mom in yoga pants can't park her SUV directly outside the boutique she wants to shop at. Or god forbid some mildly overweight moron have to park their rusted-out Chevy Celebrity more than half a block away from Creation Station. Or pick your stereotype - people are dumb regardless.

Currahee 5 years, 5 months ago

They can spend $70 million on frivolous crap but they're wavering on a measly $1 million?

kuguardgrl13 5 years, 5 months ago

I happen to like the currently designated free public parking downtown. Let's keep it that way. As for the churches, their lots are (I believe) on their own property. Not to mention, all parking on Sundays is free anyway.

patkindle 5 years, 5 months ago

if you have trouble parking downtown, you are either only going there at peak times, or you are just too lazy to walk a block or so... just keep milking the downtown businesses, when the cow runs dry we can all park at walmart

Kontum1972 5 years, 5 months ago

i have never wanted to park downtown on the main drag...its a joke i don't mind parking somewhere else....esp. with some of the idiots texting and trying to find a place to park. Some of these people need to walk what next making the side walks wider to accommodate the large loads waddling down the sidewalks stuffing there faces. Someone at city hall needs to take a pay cut to show good faith as a leader....i was told by a city worker they were told they could be fired anytime...on a whim by big daddy. OBTW...that little burg in Arkansas is loving having that music festival down in their town....they are laughing all the way to the bank.

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