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Packard Avenue parking proposal prompts mixed reactions

Panel favors parallel spots over angled

April 21, 2009

The Common Council was scheduled this week to review a $225,000 project to install 49 parallel parking spaces along Packard Avenue between Howard Avenue and Lake Drive.

The Board of Public Works backed the proposal April 9, City Engineer Melinda Dejewski said. The council meeting was April 21, after South Shore NOW's publication deadline.

The extra parking spaces would benefit businesses in the area, particularly Carleton Grange Pub and the occupants of Merchants Row, but not everyone is thrilled with the idea of parallel spaces.

Carleton Grange Pub owner Eric Ellsworth has said he would prefer angled parking because it would create more stalls near his restaurant than parallel spots would.

Craig Ellsworth, Carlton Grange Pub's landlord, said the recommendation for parallel parking flies in the face of past plans and that the Planning Commission in 2005 deemed the option to be inadequate to meet the needs of the Carleton Grange Pub and future businesses.

"The Smart Growth plan, as well as all proposals brought forward to date for improvements in the area, has included angled parking on Packard," he said.

More than a year ago, Ellsworth threatened to sue the city if officials failed to properly address parking along Packard Avenue.

"We're very unhappy about this latest development," he said.

But George George, a Board of Public Works member, said the panel favored parallel parking because Packard Avenue is not a particularly wide street and because it is safer.

"I hate angled parking because it's not that safe," he said.

With angled parking, drivers must back into traffic to pull out of their stalls, said Joe Stueck, another board member.

The city would be able to create parallel parking stalls without acquiring land from the Mandel Group's undeveloped 13-acre property abutting the road, but some of the land might need to be purchased to allow the installation of sidewalks later on, Dejewski said.

On April 9, Mandel Group's Chief Operating Officer Bob Monnat told board members that he was in favor of parallel parking along Packard Avenue, Dejewski said. However, he also said his firm plans to build a 699-stall parking lot on its property, so additional parking along Packard would be unnecessary for his development.

Money for the parking construction project likely would come from tax-incremental financing funds, but that has yet to be finalized. The proposed project is situated in the TIF district.

Tax-incremental financing, or TIF, is a mechanism that allows municipalities to borrow money to fund infrastructure improvements for an area that otherwise would be difficult to develop or redevelop. The increased property tax revenue from the improved land is then diverted from the tax roll to pay off the loan.

It has not been decided when construction would take place, Dejewski said.

Chantel Balzell can be reached at (262) 446-6602.

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