Fayetteville may end minimum parking rules, other cities watching the move

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 178 views 

A relaxation of off-street parking requirements in commercial zones is hoped to spur new development or redevelopment in older Fayetteville commercial areas. The proposal will be considered by the Fayetteville City Council on Sept. 1 for the first of three readings of the ordinance to abolish the minimum parking requirements in commercial area.

Under the proposal, business owners would be allowed to determine the number of parking spaces the business might need on a typical business day. Jeremy Pate, director of the city’s development services division, said parking is usually part of a business plan reviewed by financial institutions before money is lent.

“This puts the decision in the hands of the business owners,” Pate said.

Mayor Lioneld Jordan said the business owner is better to make a decision on the amount of parking needed for his business.

“This will streamline the development process and encourages more development in older areas. It’s an economic driver and makes us a more walkable community,” Jordan said.

Alderman Martin Schoppmeyer Jr. said, “If it will help business, it’s a good idea.”

The city’s parking regulations are a mixed bag of rules depending on how a particular property is used.

For commercial properties, the rules often depend on a business’ square footage. For example, restaurants require one parking space for every 100 square feet of gross floor area. A bank must have one space for every 200 square feet. For a home improvement store, it’s one space for every 500 square feet.

For other properties, parking depends on rough estimates for how many people will visit a certain type of business. A hospital must have at least one parking space per bed. For a barbershop, it’s two parking spaces per chair. At a bowling alley, six parking spaces are required for every lane.

Residential parking requirements would remain unchanged under the proposal. A single-family residence, duplex or triplex still would have to have at least two parking spaces per dwelling unit. Multifamily apartments and townhouses would still require one space per bedroom.

The proposal also doesn’t apply to the city’s maximum parking requirements for commercial properties. Developers would still be limited in the total number of parking spaces they can build, although waivers can be granted by using alternative storm water techniques, such as bioswales, constructed wetland or pervious pavement, or by planting extra trees above and beyond what city code calls for.

Under existing law, developers can reduce the number of parking spaces they’re required to build by installing bike racks, substituting motorcycle or scooter spaces for full-size spots or sharing parking with an adjacent property, provided the two properties have different peak demands — like a church and a bank. Further reductions are also allowed if a property lies within a quarter-mile of a transit stop.

The minimum parking requirements have created large areas of asphalt that may only be filled one or two times a year, like during the shopping rush the day after Thanksgiving. The abolition of minimum parking requirements make parking lots, such as those at Fiesta Square or Evelyn Hills, both on College Avenue, could open viable locations for new development such as a restaurant in the parking lot.

Pate said the planning staff might have to deny a business license or discourage a new business owner from moving into an existing building because the owner can’t meet the minimum parking requirements. These situations happen several times a year. Planning Commissioner Matthew Hoffman has said parking lots represent the most prevalent land use in the city, not small or large businesses, schools or parks. 

“This change is really about expanding options for people in the City of Fayetteville. Entrepreneurs will be given more freedom to decide how much parking is right for their business, and as our city develops in the future, residents who choose to walk or ride bikes will be given a more equal standing with those that choose to drive,” Hoffman said. 

Hoffman said the current minimum parking standards discourage redevelopment of smaller lots in town, and push new businesses out to the edges where customers that drive can only access them easily. 

“Lower income individuals who can’t afford to have a car, and people that are interested in living a more healthy lifestyle are essentially left out of this model,” Hoffman said. “Removing this regulation will allow businesses in Fayetteville to better adapt to the next generation of development pressure – one that overwhelmingly prefers walkable communities.”

Planning Commissioner Tracy Hoskins called the parking requirements “antiquated.” 

“This will help with redevelopment in areas that would struggle to redevelop now,” Hoskins said. “Business owners know more than we know about their parking needs.”

Jordan said the abolition of the parking requirements could lead to more walking or biking to get to businesses. He has been during his time as mayor a proponent of creating a more walkable or bike-friendly city.

The proposed ordinance coming to the City Council is recommended by the Planning Commission. The only dissenting vote from the Planning Commission was by Commissioner Tom Brown who suggested a phased in approach might be better, especially in areas where commercial parking could spill over into residential neighborhoods. The city planning staff has considered a relaxation of the parking requirements for several years as a method to encourage infill development.

“This is really nothing new,” Pate said, although it is new to Arkansas.

Officials in Springdale, Bentonville and Fort Smith have indicated they are watching out the new program moves forward in Fayetteville, he added.