By Jano Tantongco
A code change proposed by the Huntington Town Board seeks to free up parking in downtown areas by requiring developers to supply their own parking spaces for apartment units they build as part of mixed-use buildings in commercial zones.
The proposal, penned by councilwomen Susan Berland and Tracey Edwards, would make it so developers have to supply parking for the residential component of their project either onsite, or alternatively, at a private lot within 1,500 feet. Developers would have to provide one parking space per apartment unit — down from the current requirement of one and a half.
Parking requirements for the commercial portion of the building would not change, and developers would still have the option of going before the zoning board for a variance to use a nearby municipal parking lot to meet requirements.
Under current law, developers can also get a parking variance to meet parking requirements for apartment units.
Huntington Chamber of Commerce Chairman Bob Scheiner said he supports the proposal as it would likely slow requests to the zoning board for parking variances.
“Using the same parking spaces over and over has created a problem,” he said.
The Huntington Town Board is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the change on April 4, 2 p.m. at town hall.
Berland said in a news release that the resolution is intended to “address the increased demand on parking associated with new residential development of apartments over stores in” commercial zones.
The resolution adds that apartment residents who “park for long periods of time,” including overnight, have played a part in the lack of parking in hamlet centers and negatively impacted “the ability of small business owners to draw patrons.”
Edwards acknowledged that this would not be a total fix to the parking problem.
“Ultimately, we need a parking garage and we are all working together to come up with the best way to pay for it,” Edwards said in the news release. “In the meantime, this amendment will ensure that any new development has the required parking for residential use.”
When asked for comment in addition to the news release, Edwards deferred to Berland. When asked for additional comment, Berland declined through Jason Zove, her legislative aide.
Peter Pastorelli, founder of Value Drugs and managing partner of the Icehouse Apartments — a mixed-use building with 26 apartments he recently built and opened in Huntington village — also pointed out that the village needs a parking garage.
Pastorelli described the parking issue as “very complex” and said he supports creation of a parking district. A parking district has previously been pitched by town officials as a means of creating a funding mechanism for creation of more spaces.
Pastorelli, who received a variance to meet parking requirements for the Ice House and other developments in the village, worried Berland’s and Edwards’ proposal may inhibit residential development, which he said contributes to making the village “viable.” He said that those residents shop locally, often on foot, balancing out parking concerns.
“The way to make a village prosper is figure out ways to increase the capacity of parking, not to figure ways of not having people live or open businesses in the village,” Pastorelli said. “It doesn’t fall on one particular thing.”