CONSULTANT WILL GUIDE CITY HALL
By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – When it comes to the suddenly controversial issue of parking in Oneonta, Mayor Gary Herzig wants everyone to pitch in.
“If you look at a Google Maps photo of Oneonta, a lot of downtown is empty blacktop,” he said, “It’s not a good use of real estate.”
The subject of parking has been a concern of late, with the Common Council approving the sale of a portion of the Dietz Street Parking Lot to The Kearney Realty & Development Group to build the proposed Lofts on Dietz.
However, Herzig said that multiple studies have shown that there is an abundance of parking in the downtown – but that accessing it may be the issue.
“Our parking regulations are confusing and don’t make effective use of downtown spaces,” said Herzig. “We have spaces for eight, four and two-hour parking, but they don’t reflect the actual needs of the city.”
For example, he said, there are rows in the Dietz Street lot that are two-hour parking, yet remain empty all day. “There’s not a need for that kind of parking there,” he said. “So it’s just a waste of space.”
He has begun conversations with the Otsego County Chamber of Commerce, among others, in order to begin a needs assessment survey. “How many spaces do businesses, employers and employees need?” he asked. “Once we know that, we can create new parking regulations.”
In addition to updating the lot regulations, Herzig has begun conversations with downtown churches and not-for-profit organizations about opening their parking lots on days that they are not open.
“There are well over 100 parking spaces in private lots during the business day,” he said. “We want to talk to organizations and see if we can work out an arrangements that is mutually beneficial.”
In addition to creating more efficient lots, Herzig wants to study how Oneontans can better deal with winter parking.
“In the city, everyone has to move their car off the street if there’s two and a half inches of snowfall,” he said. “It’s crazy. These days, we have better equipment than we had when these regulations were put into effect. We can do things more efficiently without inconveniencing people.”
Herzig said that the City will look into changing the regulations; however, Herzig said the snow emergency study would not be done by this winter, so parking regulations remain in effect for the 2019-2020 season.
“There is such an overabundance of parking, but there was never a need to study it,” he said. “But we need to be smarter, and use our downtown real estate more efficiently.”
Additionally, as much as $6.25 million has been set aside for renovations to the Municipal Parking Garage. “We have 450 spaces in that garage,” he said. “And on a typical day, half of them are empty.”
But he acknowledged that he understood why. “It’s dingy, it’s dark, and it leaks,” he said. “It’s not an inviting place. People don’t want to park there.”
$2.25 million of the Downtown Revitalization Money was set aside to renovate the aesthetics of the parking garage. “We want to make it more brightly lit, fix the leaks and add an elevator,” he said. “It will be more attractive and inviting for people to use.”
In addition, $4 million of the DRI was earmarked to create a transit hub for Oneonta Public Transit and Trailways Bus Lines.
Wendel Consulting has been retained for both projects, said Herzig.
“We are working on some design concepts right now,” he said. “We would like to move forward as soon as possible.”
“Parking is something that is never a static situation,” he said. “It changes with time, as more people move in and more businesses are created, it creates a bigger demand. We will always have to adjust the study; it’s in no one’s best interest to have a lot of empty spaces, or no empty spaces.”