Letter: Fee-in-lieu of parking debate rolls on
To the Editor:
This letter is not a response to misstatements and incorrect information appeared in some letters to the editor, but an explanation of the thought process as to how and why the Planning and Zoning Commission adopted the fee-in-lieu regulations.
Few will argue with the premise that the business district, our downtown, is most important part of the town. Its attractiveness contributes to the value of our homes, and the businesses in general contribute to the tax base, helping to make New Canaan's property tax the lowest in the area, with the exception of Greenwich. It is the duty of all town bodies, including the P&Z Commission, to protect and enhance this town asset as well as to remove any obstacle that would diminish its value. One of the most important issue about an attractive and vibrant business area is parking. Several studies, including the currently completed Commercial Market Demand Study, point to the competition between area towns in attracting beneficial and desired shops and businesses. Decisions in connection of parking greatly impact this competition.
New Canaan zoning regulations are the most strict and require more parking than any of the area towns. The P&Z Commission has several option to loosen the requirements in order to improve our competitive edge. The Commission determined that lowering the standards was found not to be the right solution. The regulations already offered the opportunity reduce parking requirements 25 percent by special permit, where it is found to be beneficial. This would not contribute to the availability of more parking in the overall, and would not provide funds to build more. The fee-in-lieu option, however, is a flexible tool, and it will not only help in construction of new parking, but will ask those who benefit from more flexible regulations to contribute.
How much should this contribution be? Equivalent to the cost of the replaced surface parking? Or fully fund the cost of the tiered parking space? Is it not reasonable to assume a "private-public" partnership when we talk about overall town interest? The P&Z Commission's solution was a vote for such a private-public solution. The fee as it was established reflect that thinking. Whether the fee is the correct amount or not, the fee will be reviewed periodically though public process as more information becomes available.
Editor's note: Laszlo Papp is the chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission.