LACONIA — Terms for leasing parking spaces for residents of the Colonial Theatre condominiums are being revised, a reaction to the misgivings by downtown businesses and some city councilors.
At issue is the plan to lease 18 spaces — 10 in the so-called City Hall parking lot on Beacon Street East, and eight in the lot between Main and Pleasant streets.
Downtown businesses, along with owners of commercial buildings, are objecting because the initial plan would reallocate spaces which downtown establishments say are a crucial amenity to attracting customers who want convenient parking.
Under a revised plan presented at Tuesday's City Council meeting, the spaces have been moved further back in the two lots, so the “front-row” spaces would continue to be available to the general public.
Bob Sawyer, who owns a commercial building at 50-62 Canal St., said he was pleased with that change.
“The businesses that understand the convenience aspect are the businesses that are going to be successful,” he said.
Some others who spoke during the 45-minute public hearing said that rather than lease spaces in the two lots for 99 years, the city should give condo residents the opportunity to lease space in the downtown parking garage once the major refurbishment of that facility is complete.
Condo residents would find the parking garage a more-attractive option because the spaces would be covered, they said.
Several members of the council, including Councilors Bruce Cheney, Bob Soucy, and Bob Hamel said the 99-year term of the lease was too long.
Acknowledging that the $14 million Colonial restoration project was “a huge benefit” to the city, Hamel said, “I have a problem with the 99-year lease.”
Councilor Henry Lipman, who favors leasing parking spaces for the condo residents, recommended that the council table the matter to review the details, including the lease terms. After more discussion the vote to table the matter passed on a 6-0 vote.
City Manager Scott Myers told the council that the decision by Meredith entrepreneur Rusty McLear to commit to building residential condominiums on the second and third floors of the building that fronts the Colonial was critical to “getting a mothballed project off the ground.”
Lipman said the city should stand by the reserved-parking-space commitment it made with McLear, but that some modifications could be made to the proposal that would address the concerns raised over the location of the spaces or the duration of the lease.