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Neighbors air Main Street parking concerns

Council passes first reading to rezone mayor’s house

SOLON– The rezoning of 131 W. Main St. was the agenda item.
But the discussion was about downtown parking.
Solon’s city council approved the first reading of an ordinance amending the zoning of Mayor Steve Stange’s residence from residential to commercial at a meeting Jan. 18.
During a public hearing on the request, neighbors took the opportunity to vent their feelings regarding parking on their end of Main Street.
“Big Grove takes over this whole area on the weekend, absolutely, without a doubt,” said D.R. Miller of 131 W. Main St.
“They really have,” echoed Marsha Solares, of 123 S. West St.
The two shared their experiences as home owners on the edge of a downtown area poised to move closer with the development of “121 on Main,” a two-story, mixed-use building which would replace three Main Street homes.
Stange’s home, currently the subject of a purchase agreement, is the third of those houses, which stretch from Big Grove Brewery to the corner of West Street.
HPR Investments proposes to tear down the houses and construct a single building with 12,000 square feet of ground level commercial and eight condominiums on the second story.
Solares questioned the impact of the development on her property and noted current issues with parking.
“Sometimes I can’t even get into my driveway,” she said. “I’m just wondering is this going to make it more of a mess or less of a mess?”
121 on Main’s residential units would include two-car garages, with additional guest spaces, to the rear of the property, and developers acquired an additional lot for commercial parking to the south. The extension of diagonal parking on Main Street is expected to provide added on-street stalls.
Solares asked council members to consider making the area in front of her residence a no-parking zone.
“But if we added a no-parking zone, nobody could park there,” pointed out Public Works Director Scott Kleppe.
“Exactly,” Solares responded, noting she had space in her driveway for guests if it could be reached.
Kleppe indicated it would be an easy fix to establish a no-parking area along the street.
Miller, however, told council members any added commercial parking would be gobbled up by traffic generated from Big Grove.
“They park anywhere they want,” he observed. “I’ve lived on this corner long enough and I’ve watched what’s happened. That’s going to be the biggest concern.”
Mark Pattison, representing HPR Investments, tried to assure his potential neighbors.
“We thought about this a lot,” Pattison said, noting the added lot at 120 W. Short St., might actually help alleviate parking in the area.
Extending diagonal parking adds eight stalls, he said, with most potential commercial tenants generating mostly daytime, weekday traffic.
Pattison said it was possible HPR Investments and Big Grove could work together to address the issue.
Julie Hauser, also a Main Street resident, said she suspects a lot of the parking choking the residential area is created by employees.
“They’re there for possibly eight hours a day,” she said. “That’s where the problem is. They’re coming and staying.”
Mayor Stange, who said earlier in the discussion he wouldn’t speak, chose this time to speak, noting his property and another of the homes often have multiple vehicles parked on the street.
“That’s part of it, too,” Stange said. “I’m sucking up three spots.”
Miller was not moved by his argument and suggested Big Grove should come up with a plan to address employee parking before the city considers the new commercial proposal.
“It’s almost like Beef Days on weekends around here,” Miller said.
“From a council perspective, it is a top priority,” council member Shawn Mercer responded.
Both Solares and Hauser wanted to know the impact on property values and whether they should be concerned about more commercial growth.
Pattison said premiums were paid for the properties involved, and the potential for future development would likely increase the value of the adjacent lots.
“It definitely doesn’t make it worth less,” Pattison said.
Additionally, council member Mark Krall pointed out the city’s recently-updated comprehensive plan anticipates the continued expansion of Main Street, making development likely at some point.
Council members passed the first reading of the rezoning request unanimously. Two additional readings will be required.