Auburn to eliminate minimum parking requirements for commercial development


AUBURN – City council on Monday approved two ordinance changes that will remove minimum parking requirements for commercial development.

The move, proposed as part of the city’s overall plan discussions, aims to allow landowners to decide how much parking their business or other use will need, rather than adding potentially unnecessary parking spaces. to their development.

Currently, the city requires one parking space per 300 square feet of gross floor area for retail businesses and one parking space per 200 square feet of gross floor area for offices. For restaurants, the ordinance requires space for three seats.

According to a city memo, the proposal was part of recommendations the Comprehensive Plan Update Committee received from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, a libertarian research center focused on free-market approaches to public policies.

The recommendation argued that “the market should be able to dictate what is needed for parking” and that the minimum requirements “create several empty spaces that do not add value to the city or property … move homes away and businesses, hamper the functioning of neighborhoods, increase the cost of housing and place a particularly costly burden on small local entrepreneurs.

After city council asked city planning council to consider eliminating parking minimums for all uses, comments from city department heads and public safety officials led the council to recommend only removal of requirements for commercial uses.

The memo says staff have raised concerns about the “unintended consequences” of eliminating requirements in residential areas, including increased on-street parking, issues of snow bans and snow removal, and the size of new developments.

City manager Phil Crowell said speed of traffic was a concern for public safety. He said it is generally known that the more parking on the street, the slower traffic it is.

Mayor Jason Levesque said, “pushing cars on the street slows down traffic,” adding that downtown Auburn has properties “of very high value” for infill development, but argued that “The only way to release this infill is to remove these restrictions. “

“If you want a pedestrian city, you have to have places to walk,” he said.

Infill development develops vacant or underutilized plots in already largely developed urban areas.

Councilor Belinda Gerry, providing the only vote against the measure, said she was concerned that “if we don’t have enough parking people are going to have to fight” for spaces.

Levesque said limiting the change to commercial businesses would mean, for places like the Auburn Mall, that if certain parking lots are not needed, it could allow for the creation of “protection sites” where smaller businesses could be built.

A separate vote to eliminate the district’s parking minimums based on city forms was also passed 6-1.

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