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Input sought on downtown parking in Sylvania

Officials reach out to others, research records to assess if shortage of spaces exists

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Pedestrians cross Main Street as downtown Sylvania's lights twinkle in the twilight during this winter's Downtown Delights in downtown Sylvania. Sylvania’s administration has been tasked with getting business owners’ perspectives on parking in downtown Sylvania.

The Blade/Katie Rausch
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Sylvania’s administration has been tasked with getting business owners’ perspectives on parking in downtown Sylvania.

Bill Sanford, city economic development director, is contacting downtown business and building owners to talk one-on-one about parking. City council sought the review.

“Council wants the input. They want to see what people would like done,” he said.

The review is part of a three-pronged research project to be submitted to the economic development subcommittee. It is to include input from Law Director Leslie Brinning, who is researching records and maps of downtown, and checking whether restrictions were placed on deeds. Smith Group JJR of Ann Arbor will consult on how parking should be designed for downtown growth. The architectural and engineering firm conducted a parking study of Sylvania’s downtown in 2008.

“The perception is that there is a shortage of parking among visitors to our community and among downtown business. We are truly trying to assess if it is accurate and if there is indeed a need for additional parking,” said Mary Westphal, council president and a member of the subcommittee.

The effort, officials said, was spurred in part by a proposal to extend parking around Sylvania Municipal Court, plus the traffic increase expected from an Executive Diner planned on Main Street. Although council has not indicated if it will go ahead with the parking plan, last month it voted 6-1 to buy two plots of land behind the municipal court building for $30,000.

Mr. Sanford plans to talk to business owners about the prospects of enforcing time limits, installing parking meters, or restricting where employees park.

Scott Hudson, owner of Hudson Gallery, was one of the first to sit down with Mr. Sanford. He lauded the idea of a parking garage.

“I would love to see a two or three-level parking garage back there,” Mr. Hudson said of the municipal lot behind the row of buildings on Main Street’s west side. With the lot surrounded by buildings, including the city’s police department on Maplewood Avenue, it would not seem to obstruct any homeowner views, he added.

Across the street from his art gallery on Main Street is the Sylvania Area Chamber of Commerce. Laura Glover, director of marketing, echoed Mr. Hudson’s suggestion for a garage.

“We do hear from some business owners that there is a shortage of parking. Aside from going up, I don’t know where you can go.”

She added that for events hosted by the chamber, such as the Almost Oktoberfest that drew more than 1,000 people downtown, people express parking jitters beforehand.

“Usually there is enough schools within one block, including Northview, Maplewood, and St. Joseph’s, that allow us to use their parking lot,” snuffing out postevent complaints.

Officials expect to submit findings by February to the economic development subcommittee at a meeting, and a representative from SmithGroup JJR will attend. Mrs. Westphal said council will review all the information, which will be made public, and then will hold a public forum for input.

Those wanting to give input should contact Mr. Sanford at bsanford@cityofsylvania.com or 419-885-0482.

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