Parking discussed at commission workshop
By Grace Lovins
Birmingham city commissioners met on Monday, September 12, for their third special workshop discussing issues around parking in the city, where they continued to analyze the city’s parking system, including expired parking assessment districts, and review if the issue currently warrants action.
The commission previously held two special workshops related to parking in May and October of 2021. On May 10, 2021, the commission reviewed background information on the city’s parking system, including parking meters, city owned lots, and parking structures.
During the workshop on October 4, 2021, the commission discussed the future of the city’s parking system and whether it may be further developed to include the Triangle District. The workshop addressed questions surrounding expired parking assessment districts, and affirmed that the city currently has no parking assessment district and it would not be possible for any properties to buy into an assessment district as they have all expired.
Monday night’s presentation by assistant city manager Jana Ecker echoed previous discussions regarding parking assessment districts. She reiterated that the city currently has no active parking assessment district as they have all expired, and suggested the commission refer to the parking system as the Downtown Parking District.
After the question was raised by the commission during past workshops about past planning boards considering future growth and development in the city, Ecker later emphasized in her presentation that future growth was considered during studies conducted in the 1960’s through the 1980’s.
“The zoning ordinance that we have right now is consistent with exactly what was intended and it’s been in place like that since 1955,” Ecker said. “Future development was included. We can’t assess for new development that comes in because we don’t have an assessment district. There’s nothing to assess, and even if you could – they’ve already paid for it. Unless you’re going to provide some new structure, some new parking benefit, that’s something you could decide to set up: A new parking assessment district.”
Commissioner Clinton Baller noted the city has a history of responding to demand, and one of the concerns expressed is that parking is a finite resource and new developments are going to consume the finite resource, which has been the case since the 1950’s. He stated that the response to the question of supply and demand should include the commission talking about adding more parking.
City Manager Tom Markus responded that the city is in a period of deescalation as opposed to growth, leaving the commission to decide if parking is an issue that should be looked at right now, referring to many offices working virtually or in hybrid mode.
“I think our biggest fear right now is we may be at a point where parking goes into decline. We really don’t know that yet, but that’s kind of a fear to me,” said Markus. “We’ve always been in this growth mode and now all of a sudden we’re in a deescalation mode and that’s something we haven’t experienced. I think that’s the risk that many of us see happening right now, but I’m not convinced that it’s going to be long term. I think you’re going to have to wait this out some more and see.”
The workshop concluded with the commission in agreement to revisit the parking issue at a later date.