Miles, a former planning commission member, said she feels as if "we haven't done our homework."
"I'm not against the garage, but I want to see that it's done thoughtfully, that we're not going to look back in 10 years and say we made a big mistake here," Miles said.
A roomful of Sewickley business owners and residents attended a meeting Thursday evening at Sweetwater Center for the Arts hoping to learn more and express their concerns to Sewickley Council about potential plans to erect a 279-space parking garage in the business district.
Sewickley Manager Kevin Flannery fielded questions and promised to take everyone's suggestions and concerns back to council.
Those who attended were expecting council members would be at the meeting and were disappointed to find officials mostly absent. Councilwoman Carole Ford was the only council member in attendance.
"I think it's really a shame that they're not here," Miles said.
Borough Council began discussing earlier this year the possibility of erecting a parking garage at the site of the former Ascot Motors on Walnut Street. Officials have said that parking in the borough is at a premium, and that in order to accommodate any future development projects, the borough will need additional parking.
In July, council approved the transfer of $910,000 in borough funds to use as a bridge loan to purchase the property. Last month, council approved having Janney Montgomery Scott LLC, a Pittsburgh-based financial services firm, provide due diligence for a $8.5 million bond to cover the overall costs associated with a garage.
Flannery said residents won't end up footing the bill because revenues generated from the new garage would be designed to repay the debt. Officials estimate 50 percent of the garage's occupancy rate would cover the bond issue.
"Sewickley is a regional center...," Flannery said. "We have to be there to provide the service."
If approved, the 3 1/2-story garage would sit on two parcels, one being the Green Street parking lot where 56 spaces would be eliminated.
In addition to future needs and necessity, questions were raised regarding the design and size of the garage to which Flannery said council is looking at various designs, including brick and glass with highlights.
Others questioned whether the garage was being constructed to accommodate new office space being built on Thorn Street.
Flannery said the current developer of a new 30,000-square foot office building on Thorn has secured enough parking, but has expressed an interest in renting 73 parking spaces if the parking garage is built.
"I don't think the borough can't really entertain that yet until (council members) decide that they're going to build the garage," he said.
Sharon Pillar, planning commission member, asked if the borough has considered going to neighboring communities and asking them to assume some of the risk considering other communities would also benefit.
"It serves all the communities, so I think it would be really worth it to have that conversation," Pillar said. Flannery said he would take the suggestion to council.
The informational meeting was organized by Village Green Partners, a nonprofit that focuses on marketing the business district through events and other efforts.
FAQsDoes Sewickley need more parking?
- Numerous parking studies have been done over the years, all of which say that Sewickley does not currently have a parking problem. Additional parking is to accommodate future development.
- The current zoning ordinance includes parking requirements for new development. A 30,000-square foot office building has received all of its approvals to be built on Thorn Street and will be using over 70 of the current parking spaces available.
- Future development projects will require additional parking to be added. Parking can be provided by a developer on the lot that they are developing: think First National Bank or Orr's Jewelers with their parking lots on the side or the back. Or a developer can find available spaces in town, which is what has been done for the Thorn Street building.
- In early 2013 Sewickley Borough conducted testing on the lot where the Ascot Car Dealership used to be to see if a parking garage could be constructed there. The tests were positive.
- Sewickley Borough purchased the 48,693 square foot lot in July 2013. A certified appraisal valued the land at $945,000. The borough paid $910,000. For comparison the current Green Street lot is about 20,000 square feet and has about 65 spaces.
- Sewickley Borough has created a preliminary plan with a parking garage architect to determine a ball park figure to construct a garage based on the size of the lot. This garage would accommodate 279 cars.
- Sewickley Borough is working with CTR Systems of Cranberry on designing a new coordinated meter parking system to replace all the current meters and non-functioning pay stations.
- The Borough has the opportunity to purchase the land at a fair price, so they did.
- The intent is to use this land to provide more parking for the business district. One of the options is a parking garage that would hold 279 cars.
- In addition, the borough intends to replace all of the parking meters and pay stations in the Village with a coordinated parking system. There are many advantages to a coordinated parking system. Meters turn on and off at the appropriate time. Fees charged can be easily changed. More than two hours may be put in at one time allowing customers more time to spend in the Village. Time can be added using one's telephone.
- To do anything with the land, the borough needs to consolidate the properties and rezone one of them. The current Green Street lot is in the Village Overlay and the new parcel is in the C-1 district. They must both be the same). To accomplish this there will be a public hearing at the next planning commission meeting at 7 p.m. Oct. 2.
- Sewickley Council will then have their own public hearing at the Oct. 21 council meeting.
- This is not a taxpayer funded parking garage. The idea is that the revenues generated from the new parking garage will be used to pay for it. At a 50 percent occupancy rate, the garage revenues will cover the cost of the bond issue.
- The Village Theater is a non-profit entity that hopes to build and run a two-screen movie theater.
- Plans are for the Village Theater Co. to lease land from the borough and to build the theater on a parcel fronting Walnut Street.
- Village Theater Co. has raised $1.2 million of the $1.5 million needed to construct the theater.
- If the building should ever become vacant, then the borough would own the building and would be able to lease it.
- Source: Village Green Partners Fact Sheet