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$48k TIF funds for Monk’s

Lukewarm response to leased public parking proposal
Solon City Council members listen as Ryan Wade discusses his proposal to lease a North Street lot to the city for use as public parking. (photo by Doug Lindner)

SOLON– Tax incentive, yes. Parking lot?
Solon City Council members approved close to $50,000 in tax breaks for the redevelopment of an existing Main Street building, but were cautious regarding a proposal by the developer to lease an adjacent property for public parking.
At a Feb. 22 meeting, council members considered a request from Ryan Wade seeking $147,000 in Tax Increment Finance (TIF) funding from the city to help offset $719,550 spent remodeling the former Solon Station into a new restaurant.
Wade was also on the agenda to discuss whether or not the city would be interested in leasing 123 E. North St., a residential lot immediately north of the proposed easting establishment.
The council members pledged $48,000 in TIF revenue toward the rehabilitation project, and directed city staff to proceed with a limited investigation into the costs of the parking lot.
But one council member and Mayor Steve Stange were concerned the parking lot would mostly benefit the new restaurant.
According to City Administrator Cami Rasmussen, Wade and his partners have a purchase agreement for the North Street lot, and plan to close on the property this spring. Early on in the process, she said, Wade indicated the site wouldn’t likely be developed until the rest of the block transitions to commercial use, and approached the city with the possibility of leasing the ground for public parking.
A council committee expressed interest in the idea, Rasmussen said, and general discussion ensued before bringing it to the full council.“Is the whole council interested in pursuing this?” she asked.
Public Works Director Scott Kleppe said the North Street lot measures 60 by 120 feet, enough space for two rows of 13 parking stalls with 24 feet between.
But, he noted, that would be on a hard surface with painted lines.
A less expensive gravel surface would realistically provide half the number, he said, “Because people are going to park crazy.”
It would cost the city approximately $25,000 to pour a layer of asphalt on the lot, he said, although that would not include any expense for grading or base. He also noted the numbers were very preliminary.
If the city were to pursue the project, Kleppe suggested also asphalting the alley, which is currently gravel, for about $18,000 more.
“That’s not going to be conducive to someone sitting outside having a meal or having some drinks,” he said. “And somebody flies down the alley.”
Stange was not generally supportive of the idea.
He argued the city could make the investment into building a parking lot, and then lose it to development.
“If things start popping, and he decides he wants to go ahead and build a building there, you’re going to be out that money,” he said.
Wade said those sorts of concerns could be addressed as part of the conditions of the lease.
Council member Lynn Morris was incredulous.
The city would take on grading, paving and maintaining the lot, she said. “And a lease to use it?”
Council member Steve Duncan was supportive of the idea.
The council has watched as Main Street developed and parking became an issue, he said.
“This gives us a chance to be creative in a temporary sense to address some of that parking,” he said. “To me, it makes sense to look outside the box.”
Stange countered the parking lot’s proximity would benefit mostly the business in front of it.
“You’re building a parking lot for those employees,” he stated, citing his own experience living a few doors down from Big Grove Brewery.
Council member Mark Prentice agreed with Stange.
“That’s a huge advantage for Ryan and the business,” he noted. “But one of the other issues is if we add those spots, how do we take them away?”
Prentice said it would be nice to continue improving the area, but had many reservations. “I don’t know how we do the same for somebody else when they come in– pay to pave their parking lot,” he said.
Duncan asked them to look at it another way.
“You’re going to create 26 parking spots adjacent to Main Street and let’s say it sits there seven years, it costs us $5,100 a year to create more parking,” he said. “I’m hard-pressed to look at our community and tell them that I’m not willing to look at alternatives to parking on Main Street.”
None of the council members were willing to close the door on the subject, although hidden costs like dealing with drainage from the lot onto North Street continued to pop up during the discussion.
Rasmussen indicated city staff could do some preliminary research, enough to give council members an idea of the overall costs, without spending too much time on it.
Whether the city moves forward with the proposal or not, Duncan said, it was time the city started addressing downtown parking, including the possibility of purchasing property.
Stange indicated any land near Main Street would be expensive.
He also noted that a parking inventory conducted during a recent downtown visioning project found the city had adequate capacity.
“Can you just pull right up four feet from the business any more? Maybe not,” Stange said. “You might have to walk a block.”