By Danny Schrafel
After decades of wrestling with the issue, the Town of Huntington is within weeks of seeking plans to build as many as two parking structures in downtown Huntington village, Supervisor Frank Petrone said Tuesday.
Petrone said that the request for proposals, which has been the product of about a year and a half’s work, should be issued by the end of the summer.
Bob Scheiner, chairman of the Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Huntington Village Parking Consortium, anticipates its release within the next two or three weeks and said the move would add 325 to 350 spaces.
Details of the RFP have not been finalized. Both the Elm Street and New Street municipal lots are being eyed as possible sites for structures, Petrone and Scheiner said, but the likely starting point would be the New Street lot.
“We may find it’s just out of the question to pursue New Street at this time, or there may not be outside people that feel it’s an appropriate project for them to get involved in,” Petrone said. “Now, that’s a problem, and if that is, Elm Street is an alternative.”
Petrone said the RFP could seek private developers, either in a fully private endeavor in which they lease the lot from the town and build garages, or as a public-private partnership. Petrone said the creation of a Huntington village parking district has also been considered.
“The problem is the financing. How do you finance a project like that? Now, private sector, obviously, you finance through them, but then again, they have to have a project that is going to be worthwhile to them,” Petrone said after a town board meeting Tuesday afternoon. “And we’ve heard all sorts of ideas – build apartments, build shops at the lower levels… all the way to the fact that if we build it, will the revenue in terms of parking fees… suffice in terms of paying the debt service off?”
Petrone said that bonding for parking structures could force the town to pierce the state tax-levy cap, which would mean residents would lose out on state rebate checks.
“We’ve asked for an exemption,” Petrone said. “We’ll pierce the cap, but don’t take it out on the residents.”
Pursuing structures would “keep a thriving town alive, keep businesses alive and keeps the quality of life going,” he said. And with parking variances piling up for new residential and commercial uses in Huntington village, the supervisor said that the town is approaching “a crossroads.”
“You can only do that so long because there’s only so many spaces in the municipal lot. Who are we kidding? Something has to give,” Petrone said.
The apparent move toward parking structures in the village is the latest in several years’ worth of efforts to improve the availability of parking in Huntington village.
Some efforts included instituting three-hour parking, temporary valet parking in the New Street lot, an increase in parking fees, a shift to multi-meters and a rate hike for prime parking areas, and a change in enforcement hours from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. to 10 a.m.-8 p.m. During that time, the Gerard Street lot was also reconstructed.
Meanwhile, the town took another step toward increasing the stock of free municipal parking in the village at Tuesday’s town board meeting by approving the $1.6-million purchase of a parking lot adjacent to the former A.G. Edwards building located at 24 W. Carver St., adjacent to the New Street lot. The expense will be bonded, Petrone said, and be paid off over 10 years.
Petrone said that by re-striping the lot, which currently has about 30 spots, the town could create about 66 new spots.
“This is a beginning,” Petrone said. “It also provides us an opportunity that if we do and when we build a garage, or an outside entity builds a garage – there’s a lot of ifs – the idea here is you know whenever you go into constructions, you have to close facilities, and you lose spaces. It happened on Gerard Street. It’ll happen here. Well, here’s an additional 66 spaces that help, if nothing more, with that dilemma.”
Anna Louise Realty II LLC, the current owner, will continue to own and operate the 24 W. Carver Street building, Carter said, which also has parking on site. Per the agreement, the new owners will give the town unrestricted access to parking spots immediately adjacent to the building.