This week I was the sole member of the Parking Commission to vote against the Memorandum of Understanding between New Canaan Library and the town of New Canaan. This transpired even though I am an active user of the library and a supporter of modernization.
As a member of the Parking Commission my job is to protect the parking availability for all our citizens in parking lots (but not on the streets), whether shoppers or retailers or commuters. When folks park illegally, we often have to fine them. As retailing or commuting needs change, we adjust rates and permit numbers. One constant over the decades however is the shortage of parking of all kinds and for all groups. Roughly 10 parking studies have been completed over the years documenting various shortages.
The library proposes to expand its building and increase its activity level; a goal most folks heartily support. Sadly, the cost of underground parking is expensive so they have asked the town to give up 76 parking spots at the Center School Lot so the library can have parking for $10,000 per year. This saves the library roughly $9 million in construction costs but reduces parking overall for the town. They are asking for (almost) free parking for library patrons at the expense of shoppers, retailers and commuters. Why should this one group benefit over others? Why should the town lose this precious resource forever?
Others argue that these spaces are under-utilized and virtually worthless, citing parking counts from last week that show ample free spots. Of course there are free spots—we are in the midst of a pandemic and it is February! The question is whether New Canaan has adequate parking overall, such that we can give up 76 spots forever.
P&Z regulations stipulate that each new project has the responsibility to provide its own adequate parking. As a responsible member of the community, the library should provide 76 new spaces on its own. Additional fundraising would enable them to achieve that. If the library is unable to raise the funds, then they might turn to the town for additional funding for on-site parking. Simply reducing overall parking in New Canaan to assist one charity is not the solution, and violates a founding premise of the Parking Commission.