Athens looking for municipal parking

Village officials are actively exploring new municipal parking options, hoping to provide more room for growth in the historic Athens community.
Were trying to look at other places but there arent many, said Mayor Andrea Smallwood.
The board of trustees mulled over exploring the purchase of a vacant parking area on Franklin Street owned by Don Fontaine, but are cautious about the lot being overpriced.
Smallwood said they had approached Fontaine before but the cost of the lot was exorbitant.
Trustees agreed Wednesday they would negotiate to pay the market value for the lot.
According to county records, the 17,800-square-foot lot on North Franklin Street, near the intersection with Second Street, is listed at an assessed value of $11,800.
The lot used to be the site of St. Patricks Roman Catholic Church until it burned down in the early 1980s. The village formerly leased the lot for parking but that agreement now longer stands.
The issue of parking was discussed during a March 16 public hearing for the Crossroads Brewing Company, which is planned for the former Brooks Opera House on Second Street. Residents aired concern that parking spaces would be lost without a specific parking area for the brewery, and that the village should investigate new parking lot options.
Planning Board Chairman Mark Levanway sent a letter to the board of trustees after the hearing to address the concern.
Parking is one of those things the planning board has to address whenever a project is proposed, Levanway said on Thursday.
He said that the regulations vary depending on the type of project, but for a restaurant which the brewery is proposing the code requires one space for every two seats. The Crossroads proposes to construct an 80-seat restaurant and bar. A music venue is planned for development on the second floor of the building, first built in 1893.
Theres on-street parking throughout the village, Levanway said, but as new projects come on board, theres a lot of businesses there on Second Street and they pretty much depend on on-street parking.
The Stewart House hotel, too, has proposed a renovation and could likely draw more people to Athens. Cameos restaurant has also considered expansion, Levanway said.
The historic village configuration wasnt designed to handle more than the occasional horse and carriage during the 1800s, according to Levanway.
Parking just wasnt accommodated then, he quipped. There wasnt a need for it in the 1800s.
Smallwood said Levanways recommendation to increase signage to indicate locations of the current parking areas would be discussed.
The village lot adjacent to the Village Community Center at North Montgomery and First streets, Smallwood said, is open to the public and can accommodate over 30 cars if there are three rows. There are also 21 new spaces at the Fourth Street kayak launch.
What we need are more spaces by the river, she said.
When asked if the village had ever explored demolishing potentially decrepit buildings to create a parking lot both Smallwood and Levanway agreed that any demolition proposals could cause a lot of problems.
Most of the area is in the historic district and you would be taking down a historic building, said Levanway. Its never talked about casually. I dont know if thats ever been strongly proposed.
Smallwood said the option to demolish structures isnt on the table. I dont think were into demolishing anything, she said.
In the meantime, the Crossroads Brewery has entered into an agreement with the Rivertown Senior Center on Second Street, between South Warren and South Montgomery streets, to allow for patron parking between 5:30 p.m. and 7 a.m.
The Village has not engaged the senior center in any sort of parking agreement and, Smallwood said, there werent any plans to do so. Theres parking available on the street, she said, though it may lead to people doing a little walking.
The village of Athens
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