Parking garages are back on the front burner
The question looms again about whether parking garages should be permitted n downtown New Milford.
The matter of allowing the facilities in the Village Center District will come before the public Sept. 28 during a public hearing of the Zoning Commission.
The commission has drafted a proposed amendment to the Village Center District Use regulation that would allow parking structures to be constructed in the downtown, with certain restrictions.
"We can react to proposals as they come before us," said commission vice chairman Bill Taylor, "or be proactive and create a regulation that lets businesses have a plan to work with when developing in the downtown."
"This amendment allows us to control what we think is appropriate in architectural style, height of a structure -- its overall appropriateness to the surrounding neighborhood," Mr. Taylor said.
In July 2009, a public hearing was held gathering public input on a proposed amendment that would have allowed parking structures of up to three stories.
Rob Burkhart, president of the town's Trust for Historic Preservation, presented a petition in opposition, signed by 416 residents. Many turned out to the hearing to voice their disapproval.
At that point, the proposed amendment was axed.
After reviewing the present proposal, Mr. Burkhart was less resistant. He likes that no multi-level parking garages would be allowed.
"It doesn't look bad," Burkhart said Tuesday. "I had concerns about buildings being torn down and I think they've addressed that. Streets where the structures could go are delineated, protecting street like Bennitt and Elm. I think they're on the right track."
As part of the new amendment: multi-level parking garages would not be permitted; a parking facility must be in character with the Village Center District; and all parking facilities must have direct access to either Church, Bank, Bridge or Railroad streets.
An existing building could only be torn down to make way for a parking structure if the building were to be deemed dangerous by the town's building inspector or fire marshal -- or if the building were to be dilapidated and vacant for 10 years.
"We've been very conscientious in drafting this," Mr. Taylor said. "We've kept locations allowed confined, with lots not typically visible from any place else in the town."
He noted that having parking structures addressed in the village center regulations also makes the downtown "more marketable" for the Economic Development Commission as it courts businesses to relocate to New Milford.
"We're looking to the future," Mr. Taylor said.