Another item on tonight’s Decatur City Commission meeting agenda: a change order of approximately $13,000 to include three more multi-space pay stations along Ponce where previously, single space meters were originally planned. The change order letter from Asst. City Manager Lyn Menne also states that after months of planning, the new parking meters are scheduled to be installed next week, June 23rd – 26th.
There’s also been talk around here of late about the start of Saturday parking enforcement.
Decatur has long had stated metered times on Saturday, but hasn’t enforced those limits. Menne tells DM that when that occurs, the city may start out just enforcing the 2 hour limit, but not ticketing. Menne says the city is still gathering information on how spaces are being used on Saturday and the approach to Saturday enforcement is “still a work in progress but whatever we do will involve a lot of public notice before tickets are issued. Our goal is not to ticket. Our goal is keep the best, most convenient on-street spaces turning over so customers have a reasonable expectation of finding a parking space.”
Last week, we posted about the upcoming Unified Development Ordinance community input session surrounding Sustainability this Wednesday at City Hall from 7p-9p. Now we have a bit more info of the “green performance” issues that will be discussed, and man are they varied.
Courtesy of Decatur Next…
High Performance Buildings
High performance building is the practice of creating structures and using processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building’s life-cycle — from design, construction, operation, and maintenance, to renovation and deconstruction. Such buildings reduce energy costs, improve indoor air quality, and provide greater, more consistent comfort. We’ll detail high performance building practices that could be incorporated into Decatur’s ordinance, along with their potential long-term costs and benefits.
Some of these most common performance issues are nicely summarized in this cool interactive overview from Southface.
Outdoor Lighting Standards
Decatur currently lacks regulations to reduce light pollution, despite increasing scientific research on the negative health and environmental impacts of excessive lighting at night. Potential changes to the ordinance include regulations about the types and placement of fixtures to control the unnecessary spread of light.
Chickens have become quite popular in Decatur, contributing to food, fun, gardening and education. Is everything working okay or does the number of chickens on any one lot need to be restricted? And what about potbellied pigs and pygmy goats? Should they be explicitly allowed or prohibited? Because, currently, the code is unclear either way.
Today, parking is bought indirectly through the lease or purchase price of a property, which — beyond the environmental impacts of excessive parking — works against our affordable housing goals because it forces buyers and tenants to purchase parking, even if they have no car (or have fewer cars). Unbundling treats parking as separate from housing and allows tenants to save money by only buying what they need. People are still free to purchase what they require but those who need or choose to live without a car are no longer penalized.
Another item on the agenda for tonight’s Decatur City Commission meeting – new parking meters!
Here are the details of the planned upgrade in a letter from Asst. City Manager Lyn Menne to the Commission…
[The parking management company has] developed a plan that uses a mix of single space and multi-space meter equipment that will utilize license plate recognition rather than a”pay and display”receipt option. Customer scan pay using credit, debit and smart card options as well as coins and have the option to set up prepaid accounts on-line tied to their cell phone. All of the on-street meter equipment is solar-powered.
In addition to the meter equipment, we will purchase upgraded, hand-held ticketing units, improved collection equipment that will enhance the security and tracking of revenue collections and court and collection software that will allow for the integration of citations directly into the court system and provide for more efficient and effective parking fine collections.
The project is now projected to cost $350,000, less than the original estimated cost of $500,000, according to Ms. Menne.
Decaturish also recently had a report on these coming upgrades.
Ok. Let’s take the Zoning Ordinance Update Task Force’s recommendations one-by-one. Hopefully we’ll get through them all by the time of the city commission meeting next week!
First up, a long-time favorite topic among DMers – parking! Decatur’s parking ordinance has long been criticized as outdated and many simply would point to the numerous parking exemptions the Zoning Board of Appeals has had to make the past few years as proof.
Proponents on either side of various parking battles continued to state that ultimately updated parking standards were necessary. For years the city asked for patience, as the 2010 Strategic Plan was created followed by the Zoning Task Force to tackle the issue and provide the recommendations. Now, they’re finally here. I give you the proposed updates to Decatur’s parking standards.
Here’s my attempt at a summary of the changes. Let me know what I’ve missed by scouring the detailed docs on the city’s website.
- Currently allowed – New uses and all expansion of existing buildings are required to meet the current parking regulations.
- Recommendation – Allow uses of a building to change or an expansion up to 10% without being required to meet current parking regulations.
Mins and Maxs
- Currently allowed – Retail – 1 space per 200 square feet, Restaurant – 1 space per 100 square feet, Office – 1 space per 400 suqare feet, Bowling Alleys – 5 spaces per alley, fraternity and sorority houses – 1 space per bed, and so on…
- Recommendation – 1 minimum requirement (1 parking space per 500 square feet) and 1 maximum requirement (1 parking space per 200 square feet) for ALL commercial uses. 1 minimum (1 parking space) and 1 maximum (2 parking spaces) per dwelling unit. Also, shared parking shall count towards required spaces.
- Currently allowed – 50% of parking can be “shared” within 300 feet.
- Recommendation – 80% of parking can be shared within 1,320 feet and 50% can be shared for residential within 300 feet. Off-site shared parking must have “complementary uses and operating hours” and must be zoned commercial or institutional.
Still have lots to say about Decatur’s potential zoning changes and can’t make any upcoming commission meetings? I hope you took today and/or tomorrow off from work!
Until 2pm tomorrow you can provide feedback on seven different changes the Zoning Ordinance Update Task Force is looking for feedback about on the Open City Hall website.
Here’s a list of the seven proposed changes. Click through to read through more detail and to provide your opinion.
- Home Businesses – Should the City modify the current home based business definition and standards as proposed?
- Downtown Parking – Which distance do you think would work best to allow businesses in downtown Decatur to secure parking for its customers and employees?
- Design Standards– Do you believe these standards provide a reasonable transition between downtown commercial properties and single family homes? If not, how would you add to or revise them?
- Accessory Structures – Which option do you think will work best for Decatur – Option A or Option B?
- Urban Gardens – Should the City adopt the following definitions of gardens? Should the City allow the below gardens in the following zoning districts?
- Light Manufacturing – Should the City adopt the proposed changes?
- Pedestrian Area Expansion – Should the City extend the current special pedestrian area as shown on the map?
Here’s a biggie.
For years now, when discussing various controversial parking issues – from 315 West Ponce to Farm Burger – we keep hearing from residents who say Decatur needs to fix its parking ordinance. Parking variances can be a regular agenda item for the Zoning Board of Appeals agenda, as new developments and businesses fail to meet the 1 parking spot per 100 square feet (for restaurants) and 400 square feet (for office space).
The 2010 Strategic Plan suggests the same thing. Task 14H: UPDATE PARKING STANDARDS TO ALLOW INNOVATIVE PARKING STRATEGIES SUCH AS SHARED PARKING.
Currently, shared parking arrangements with neighboring properties often need approval from the ZBA, due in part to the limited nature of the shared parking rule that requires complementary use and a location within 300 feet.
Task #4 on the Zoning Ordinance Update Task Force list is updating the parking ordinance to allow more flexibility in the definition of “shared parking”, as well as looking at lowering the overall requirements for parking inside the city limits.
According to ZOUTF’s presentation from March, parking studies in 2009 and 2011 show that “the downtown area has opportunities for shared parking among existing sites and that parking requirements could be reduced for new developments.”
So, how is ZOUTF currently looking to “update” the parking ordinance? Here are the ideas currently being floated…
- Allowing shared parking for different land uses on the same site.
- Increasing the distance allowed for shared parking between sites.
- Modifying minimum and maximum parking requirements based on the land uses that will share parking.
- Allowing owners to pay into a parking bank in lieu of providing parking onsite.
- Allowing on-street parking to count towards parking requirements.
Feedback, questions, comments should be shared with Decatur’s Planning Director Amanda Thompson at [email protected]