Finding additional parking is the primary roadblock to more development in downtown Pleasantville, village trustees said last week.
At a special work session Nov. 17 to discuss long-term goals and planning initiatives, the village board agreed that the creation of better public spaces and the development of underutilized properties will be difficult to achieve unless more vehicles can be accommodated.
The most logical solution is exploring the possibility of building a parking garage, which could include retail locations on the ground level. Mayor Peter Scherer said there are opportunities for companies to open small offices in Pleasantville, including the Chase building at 444 Bedford Rd., which has had vacancies on the top floor for several years.
There are also opportunities for residences above retail locations in the future; however, many companies are deterred from coming to Pleasantville because of lack of parking.
“I think most people were relatively comfortable with the idea that commuter parking could be structured parking because they’re there all day; they’re not in and out,” Scherer said.
Cost would be a major obstacle for a garage. According to Scherer, a 200-space parking structure would cost about $6 million and carry about $30,000 of debt service annually. In addition, parking fees would need to be raised in order to recoup some of the construction money.
The most logical place to build a structure would be in the current Lane lot, off of Cooley Street, Scherer said, with several vacant buildings in the vicinity. The goal would be to move the 110 commuter parking spaces from Memorial Plaza into a garage in order to make space available for more development and the creation of additional public green space.
Although a commuter parking garage would help, Trustee Mindy Berard said she is focused on providing spaces for the residents who live and work in the village. Berard said she doesn’t want to bring in commuters from neighboring municipalities.
“We don’t need to attract commuters from up county who don’t want to pay to park up there,” she said.
Berard was also adamant that before any development initiatives are undertaken, Pleasantville needs to update its Master Plan, which hasn’t been done in nearly two decades. She said the current plan does not address modern trends and issues, such as assisted living facilities like the Brightview Senior Living project proposed last month for the Jewish Childcare Association property on Broadway.
It also fails to consider that most households today own more than one vehicle.
“Our lifestyles now are very different than they were in 1995,” Berard said.
Trustees noted that there will likely be opposition to a parking garage, but that development will remain stagnant until alternatives are found. Trustee Colleen Griffin-Wagner suggested that the village consult the community regarding a parking structure, and if a majority opposes the idea, discussion would likely have to be halted.
Furthermore, local businesses that would benefit from the increased parking should help pay for the project. Trustee Jonathan Cunningham said business owners could work together to tackle parking issues by devising creative solutions.
Although trustees discussed the possibility of a parking garage, Berard said it could take at least a decade before a plan could be accepted and a structure is built. At the end of last week’s meeting, Scherer said the village will look into getting more accurate debt service estimates based on current rates to see if the project is financially feasible.
Trustee Steven Lord said that whatever officials decide, they will need to create a plan that accommodates the future vision for Pleasantville.
“We don’t want to build something for yesterday; we want to build for 20 years down the road,” he said.