The New Paltz Village Board’s proposed amendment to its parking requirements for primarily the business districts raised concern from several residents at last week’s public hearing. The board, with recommendations and input from the village Planning Board, proposes to amend the code to allow the current parking requirements known as Schedule C to be used as a “guide” and not as a “requirement,” so that the Planning Board can adjust off-street parking requirements on a case-by-case basis.
John Litton, a resident of Wurts Avenue in the village, said that he was opposed to the amendment, claiming that in his estimation “It removes the responsibility of the applicant to provide adequate off-street parking, and thus creates a predatory practice on residential streets that are near businesses.” He was particularly concerned with whether or not this amendment, if passed, would be applicable to the proposed Water Street Cinema that is now before the Village Zoning Board of Appeals for a variance.
None of the Village Board members could answer this question, but said that they would keep the public hearing open until their attorney, Joe Eriole, could provide them with a concrete response as to when this amendment, if passed, would apply to applications already in the pipeline.
“Developers will always push the envelope, and now, without anything required by law, the onus will be on the Planning Board to defend their recommendations, rather than the applicant having to defend their parking plan,” said Litton.
Local resident and village property-owner Peter Muller concurred. “Laws only work when they are consistently and equally applied,” he said. “This proposal violates that.” He gave a hypothetical example of a medical office opening up and being required to have a parking spot for every seven clients. Then a “podiatrist office opens up and receives approval to have one space for every 15 clients. Each new business that comes will be looking for the best deal, and once a precedent is set, they’re going to hold you to that. There has to be a standard, an expectation. If someone wants to open a business in the village and spend the money on consultants, engineers, architects, they’re going to want to have an expectation of what’s required of them. If you have no standards, then you’re going to be dancing around the courts again and again.”
Mayor Jason West said that while he understood and “appreciated” the comments made by Muller and Litton, he felt that this amendment offered “our Planning Board the flexibility and not the applicant. They could require more parking if they deemed necessary, or less, depending on the specific project and nature of the use and layout of the plan. They can’t act arbitrarily and capriciously and say, although the guidelines require only 20 spaces, you have to have 170! That would be immediately subject to a lawsuit. We haven’t thrown out the standards; we’re just saying that they should serve as a guideline and allow some flexibility — not a cookie-cutter format that has been unworkable for years for both our Planning Board and applicants.”
The village will hold the public hearing open on getting rid of required off-street parking requirements until its next meeting on April 10.