City Planning Commission hits brakes on plan to lift OTR parking minimums for new developments

CINCINNATI -- The City Planning Commission decided Friday not to act on a proposal to lift parking minimum requirements for new developments in Over-the-Rhine and Downtown.

The commissioners' pause seemed to come from the proposal's connection to a related but separate -- and contentious -- plan to implement a residential parking permit program in OTR.

During Friday morning's monthly commission meeting, board member and Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman said he worried the city administration and City Council had not had enough opportunity to engage with the neighborhoods that would be impacted.

"I think we're moving in the right direction, but I think we're moving too fast," he said. "I want to be comfortable that all the community councils have been at the table at the commission."

In addition to OTR and Downtown, the proposal would also lift requirements that new developers provide new parking spaces in Pendleton and adjacent portions of Mount Auburn and West End.

Nick Dewald spoke at Friday's meeting. He lives in Over-the-Rhine and has worked with 3CDC. He said he supported removing the parking minimums because they are making it difficult for developers to buy in to the neighborhood, despite 3CDC's efforts, because of the costs associated with providing parking spaces.

"We're running out of the ability to commit parking spaces to these developers," he said -- referring to the 3CDC-owned parking facilities in OTR, including the Mercer Garage and the Washington Park Garage.

But what dominated most residents' comments Friday morning was concern over a proposed residential parking permit plan for Over-the-Rhine, which the planning department developed alongside the plan to lift parking minimum requirements.

The two go hand in hand: If developers no longer are required to provide new parking for new developments, the permit plan would reserve a portion of existing on-street parking spaces for residents only, the logic goes.

It wasn't just Smitherman who was uncomfortable with the level of engagement. 

Peter Hames has lived in Over-the-Rhine for 14 years, and formerly served as the neighborhood's community council president. He said Friday that the commission needs to slow down.

"Slow down this process. We need to sit at the same table and find out what people's concerns are," he said. He pointed out that Walker Parking Consultants -- the firm that helped develop the parking plan for the city -- called for a second phase to its research to give a more detailed picture of the neighborhood's needs and how residents actually use on-street parking.

"These reports are not based on facts," Hames said. "They're based on opinions."

Others raised concern over the cost -- proposed at $150 for a residential permit -- as well as a proposed cap on the number of permits available to residents, 500 total.

READ MORE: City reveals latest OTR residential parking plan

Ultimately, the Planning Commission was never going to take action on a residential parking plan, but nevertheless decided to hold the parking minimums issue for later discussion.

With the lack of action from the Planning Commission, it will take a super majority of City Council to bring up the parking minimums issue during its mid-summer break meetings next week.

Pat LaFleur reports on transportation and mobility for WCPO. Connect with him on Twitter (@pat_laFleur) and on Facebook.

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