Michigan-based firm Rich and Associates, which was hired by the Canton City Council in the summer, gave the preliminary findings of its study into downtown parking Tuesday night during a meeting at City Hall.
During the meeting, Rich and Associates project manager Annaka Norris said downtown Canton doesn’t exactly have an ideal parking situation, but capacity is not an issue.
As a result, she said the firm sees no need for building a parking deck, which many have suggested might be necessary.
“We’ve currently got enough parking to satisfy the demand,” Norris said. “I can tell you right now, we’re not recommending a parking structure.”
Dave Burr, a senior project manager with Rich and Associates, echoed Norris’ sentiments after the meeting Tuesday night.
“It’s not a capacity issue — it’s really an operational issue,” he said. “It’s not like in some communities where you don’t have enough parking.”
According to Rich and Associates, part of what is causing some discomfort in downtown is that more than 50 percent of the parking spots are controlled by businesses downtown, not by the city, which makes them unavailable to the public.
Norris said the city should work with business owners to try to gain use of some private spaces.
“Canton needs to take that step and make some sort of deal with the private landowner,” she said.
During the question and answer portion of the meeting Tuesday, Canton resident Roy Taylor asked Norris if making deals with the owners of private spaces was more cost effective than the city putting in new spaces itself.
Norris said working with business owners was likely the cheaper way to go.
“If you could acquire land, yes, it would be nice to have a public parking lot up closer to Main Street,” Norris said. “The problem is: There’s not a lot of options. So yes, it becomes much more efficient to bring in under-utilized private parking that’s already there.”
Norris said the city could also help by installing signs to instruct drivers where to park and by encouraging them to only park once when they venture downtown, no matter how many locations are visited.
During the discussion, Norris also touched on the possibility of installing parking meters in downtown, which she said would be effective, but possibly hard to justify financially.
“Meters would work well in the downtown, on-street and off-street, as long as everyone’s behind it,” she said. “They are expensive as well. (Charging) a 25-cent fee to park for an hour is going to cost the city more money to put the meters in than they’re going to get from the revenue.”