Chatham Square residents seek parking revision

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This house on 425 Oronoco St. is in the middle of Old Town development Chatham Square. The residents in this neighborhood aren't eligible for District 2 parking permits, which would allow them to park on the street for an extended period of time (Photo Credit: Aleksandra Kochurova)
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By Alexa Epitropoulos | aepitropoulos@alextimes.com

Old Town residents are pushing back against a request by the Chatham Square homeowners’ association to reverse DSUP conditions that restrict their eligibility for District 2 parking permits.

The application, filed in May by HOA President William Jacobs, requests that the conditions be removed from the DSUP on the grounds of a policy from staff regarding residential permit parking for new development that council approved in June 2017.

That policy said that residents of developments of more than 10 units within a residential parking district are not eligible for a residential parking permit if the average on-street parking occupancy is 85 percent or higher at the time of approval, or if more than 50
percent of the total occupied ground floor street frontage is non-residential.

Law firm Kimley Horn, which conducted a parking study on behalf of Chatham Square HOA, said in the application that on-street parking occupancy is under that 85 percent threshold.
There are no commercial businesses on the blocks that make up the development.

Jacobs, who has lived at Chatham Square since 2005, said many residents moved to units in the development without the knowledge that they weren’t eligible for District 2 parking permits.

“It’s been an uphill fight and very disappointing to come in and buy a million dollar home and deliberately not be told that we weren’t eligible,” Jacobs said.

One of the major arguments from opponents is that Chatham Square residents already have offstreet parking. Each unit has a garage, providing approximately 1.8 spaces.
Jacobs said that the garages aren’t large enough to house more than one car comfortably.

“The industry standard is 20 by 20 feet. Ours are 18.6 by 17, which is 83.8 [fewer square feet]. … You can’t get two cars in there without running into each other,” Jacobs said.

Carolyn Merck, a resident of the surrounding neighborhood, said she is adamantly opposed to Chatham Square residents becoming eligible for District 2 parking permits. She said she was active in working with ARHA and Chatham Square developer, EYA, in 2002 to codify the parking restrictions for the development.

She said, in addition, that she and other residents had gone to real estate agents and asked them to inform potential residents of the parking restrictions in advance.

“We knew if they built 152 houses on two blocks, which is an enormous density, and they could park on the street, we would never be able to park,” Merck said.

Merck said the DSUP is a legal document with the force of law and should hold up against a parking policy that isn’t codified legally. She said the policy doesn’t restrict Chatham Square residents from parking on the street altogether, but holds them to the same restrictions that apply to everyone.

“We have to share this commodity, this scarce resource. We all have to share. Their share of parking is in their private garage and, in some areas, designated on the street,” Merck said. “Our share of parking is only on the street. We can’t go park in their garages when it snows.”

Yvonne Callahan, former president of the Old Town Civic Association, said she has a “great deal of concern” about the change and that, if Chatham Square’s DSUP changes are approved, more developments will come forward.

“I think there’s at least 12 [developments with parking restrictions]. They will come in and ask for the same thing and there will be absolutely no particular way to deny it,” Callahan said.

Callahan and Merck also disagree with the city’s updated parking policy being applied to older developments. Callahan said a DSUP is a “compact” between citizens and government and that citizens should be able to rely on that.

“What the city is doing is taking their own new definition of when a new development should be able to get residential parking permits and applying it to older ones when the criteria was different,” Callahan said.

Katye North, principal parking planner in the city’s Transportation & Environmental Services department, said the city made clear in its new parking policy that it wasn’t to be applied retroactively to all developments, but that developments with restrictions could apply for changes to their DSUP and go through the same process again if they wanted to.

“In the memo, we did mention that if development did want to come through the process that they were originally approved under to see if they could remove that condition, that was an option available to them,” North said. “But as staff, we were not going to go out there and proactively encourage them to do that.”

“There’s no guarantee that they would be approved, but we were asked by council to come up with a policy to guide their decision with new development,” North said. “It’s up to them to decide how they want to apply that.”

North said, at this point, she hasn’t heard from other developments with parking restrictions that want those restrictions reversed.

“There’s always a chance that another development will come forward. I haven’t been contacted by anybody at this point in time,” North said. “Chatham Square is the only one I’ve heard from.”

Though the DSUP application request was originally slated to go to planning commission in September, North said T&ES now anticipates it going in front of, first, planning commission and, then, city council in October. No dates are available for those hearings as of yet.

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