HUDSON - A concern for parking led the Common Council to delay a request for proposals to redevelop the old fire station and Williams parking lot at 222 Walnut and 221 Commercial streets at its Monday, Jan. 20, meeting.
The request for proposals would entertain potential redevelopment projects for the site, which will be vacant after the fire department moves. Community Development Director Mike Johnson said the site has generated a lot of interest, and development groups have reached out to him about it.
“I think there’ll be some activity on this one,” he said.
The initial plan presented would have had proposals due by May, but Mayor Rich O’Connor said he’d like to see more data on the city’s parking needs first, to see if it’s addressing the city’s parking issues like they want it to. The city’s new parking system went into effect in November.
“It’s quite possible that we’re going to find that we need additional parking, and that space, seeing as how we own that land, might be the perfect spot to help solve some of our parking problem,” O’Connor said.
The city is only in its first full month of enforcement, Johnson said, and summer will paint a different picture. O’Connor said the Fourth of July and Booster Days would likely be the height of congestion downtown.
Johnson said he anticipated interest level would be the same even if the request for proposals was delayed.
The council approved putting out the request for proposals, with a delayed due date of July 31. Council also asked city staff to come up with a proposal for the city to keep the site, raze the building and build more parking on it.
The council would make a committee to review the submitted proposals, City Administrator Aaron Reeves said.
Community Development Director Mike Johnson said the city is not bound to accept any proposals. If a proposal were accepted, it would still go through the city’s process of approvals.
Free senior parking
In other parking news, the council also approved free three-hour parking for seniors age 65 and older.
O’Connor brought the issue to the council, saying he had heard seniors expressing frustration with the system, as they don’t have smartphones, don’t know how to use the app or are having difficulty walking the half block to get to pay stations, and often there and back again to get their license plate number. O’Connor said these frustrations are different from the other feedback they have received.
“I think it’s a nice benefit for people who have contributed to our community for a long time,” he said.
The free senior parking will be implemented like a permit, O’Connor said. Senior residents will fill out a form and register their license plate number at the police department. The permit is not yet available, but will be in place soon.
City Administrator Aaron Reeves said it would be an honor system in terms of other people operating the vehicle. If they were caught, there would be forfeiture, O’Connor said.
Council member Randy Morrissette asked if the policy could be considered discriminating against other age groups. City Attorney Catherine Munkittrick said not prohibiting certain groups, but offering a benefit based on rational reasons. She said the policy is similar to other business entities giving senior or military discounts.
Reeves said he has seen other cities with similar policies.
Council member Sarah Atkins Hoggatt said she has received many complaints about the parking system, and questioned whether the city should try to peacemeal these problems when they could be looking at fixing the parking system overall.
O’Connor recognized that the city has run into some problems with the system, but said he has faith that they will get it worked out. This proposal, he said, is not about a problem, but about policy.