By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — Following another lengthy discussion Monday that included some colorful comments about downtown parking, the City Council unanimously accepted Councilor Bob Hamel's (Ward 5) recommendation that the Main Street Initiative take the lead in a parking review.
Engler's proposal includes a short-term investigation of downtown parking needs, by which he means present to two years; a medium term, by which he means three to six years; and long term, by which he means seven years and beyond.
He said that if the Main Street Initiative were to form a committee, the same stakeholders who were on a 2012 committee would suffice. Those members included representatives from the Laconia Clinic, a representative from Lakes Region Community Services, a few business owners from the downtown area and city staff including the city manager and city planner. One suggestion was to add a representatives from the Police Department and the Public Works Department.
Mayor Ed Engler said the three topics he hears about most from his contacts in the city are paid versus free parking, the length of time allocated to each space, and traffic patterns.
"No changes to the traffic patterns," said Ward 5 Councilor Bob Hamel. "We've rehashed that part for two years."
Engler replied that the topic of two-way traffic on Main Street has come up in some of his local discussions.
"We just put in this big thing," said Ward 6 Councilor Armand Bolduc, referring to the Gateway Park built during last year's bridge reconstruction. "What do we do? Tear it all down?"
Hamel replied that removing the new Main Street Bridge configuration would cost millions.
As to the city providing parking for the merchants, business people and those who envision an upscale residential quarter in and near the Colonial Theatre, Engler said that those people, to some degree, should be responsible for providing their own parking.
He said he owns a company (The Laconia Daily Sun) and is responsible for providing his employees with parking. He added that Beacon Street West developer Eric Chinberg was able to provide his condominium owners and apartment tenants with parking.
Ward 2 Councilor David Bownes asked what would happen if someone were to buy the Pemaco building on Main Street, which has no private parking. Engler said that in Keene, a developer built expensive condominiums about 100 yards from Main Street and by putting up a multi-unit garage building on an adjacent site for some some homeowners (chosen by lottery), and by renting covered spaces in a nearby city-owned garage for the rest, they were able to produce a solution.
The vote to ask the Main Street initiative to take the lead was unanimous.
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