FREEPORT — The Town Council will hold public hearings Jan. 2 on proposed changes to parking regulations and design standards.
The Parking Task Force started working on parking issues in the town’s Village Commercial 1 District last winter and is recommending that the council amend the parking requirements.
The amended ordinance would create an incentive for shared parking by stating that the respective number of off-street customer parking spaces required for each permitted use in the district is eligible for a 25 percent reduction if they share spaces with other businesses.
“All shared parking means is that you don’t put a sign up that says that this parking space is for this business, and this business only,” Town Planner Donna Larson said.
The reduction only applies to restaurants and retail establishments, and does not apply to the required amount of parking for employees.
“As retail is changing in the Village and around the country, new uses have the opportunity to come in and that incentive is there for those uses,” Larson added.
The change would also clarify that, in determining the square footage of a building for meeting parking requirements – standardized in town zoning – all measurements should be taken from the interior walls of each floor of the building.
For example, all restaurants, snack bars, and eating and drinking establishments in the district are required to have one customer parking space for every 150 square feet of their floor plan.
“Years ago, we found that the way people calculated their parking was different in every situation,” Larson said. “Some used outside walls, some used inside walls, some used a calculation that … we couldn’t reconcile.”
Stairways, public restrooms, unused attic or basement space, elevators, loading docks, utility rooms, and areas with less than six feet of floor-to-ceiling height should not count in the calculation.
Larson said businesses are allowed to recalculate their required parking spaces with approval from town staff. In a Dec. 14 memo, Larson said that if property owners feel the changes being proposed would be beneficial to them, they can apply for an amendment of their site plan approval.
Over the past year or so, the Project Review Board has been reviewing several projects in the Route 1 corridor, which prompted the board to take a closer look at design guidelines for the town’s Commercial Districts 1, 3, and 4.
The board found that only one overhead door on a building side visible from Route 1 was allowed in the district, unless the builder had a waiver. An amendment would clarify that in certain instances, such as use by retail and restaurants, more than one overhead door would be allowed.
Additionally, the board found that the Route 1 design guidelines, developed in the late 1990s, are suggestive and seem to anticipate more retail development on Route 1 south when, in fact, the development trend has been more non-retail uses, such as manufacturing, boat sales, and storage.
Amendment language, reviewed by the Project Review Board and the Planning Board, would clarify how the Route 1 design guidelines should be used and more clearly states that these guidelines are advisory, and not required.
The Jan. 2 meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. in Town Council Chambers.