Saturday, October 13, 2012
Should the village be in the real estate business?
When I moved into that office the landlord told me that he had a 99 year lease on eight parking spaces there, and one of them was mine. At that time, there was gravel on only a small portion of the lot. After a few years, someone, graveled over the entire lot and it be came de facto parking for 25-30 cars. Once that happened, the tourists took notice and there were times I would arrive at my office to do real work and find that my parking space was occupied by someone who had come here to hang out. Bitter..? Admittedly so.
So, imagine my surprise when I showed up at my office one day, recently, and found the lot cordoned off with yellow police-looking tape, and a sign that said "authorized parking only." Am I not authorized? I wondered. I decided not to take a chance on getting my car towed. So, now I park wherever I can find a spot: in the Bryan Center lot; next to the train station; over by the post office. The loss of all those parking spaces has put noticeable pressure on parking all over town. Yeah, you guessed it: bitter doesn't even begin to describe it. But, I understand that I have no legal standing here and am powerless to do anything about it.
At this point, someone is already looking for the "comment" button to tell me that I should be walking or biking, instead of driving. That might be a good answer for someone else, but, for personal reasons, neither one of those is an option for me. So, let's not go there.
If the village were to purchase that land, the article in the News opines, they might open the lot back up for parking until they decide what to do with it. That should be welcome news to me - back to the status quo. And, knowing how this town is, whatever the village proposed to do with the land, thereafter, would meet with stiff resistance by at least 50% of the population - parking in perpetuity and plenty of material for the Blog's chief cartoonist - a win/win situation.
But do we really want that? Do we want to be in the real estate business? Do we want to own a lot that nobody has been able to unload since it was the site of a grain elevator back when trains used to run through here? The Center for the Arts decision to purchase an option on that lot was controversial in itself. Most thought the lot too narrow for construction of a useful building. Has the lot gotten wider? Is there something long and narrow that can fit in there that will add to the economy of this town? Am I missing something? Do we want to spend the taxpayer's money on this? That Joni Mitchell tune from back in the 60s notwithstanding, perhaps that parcel really is only suited for a parking lot. Maybe it's been trying to tell us that for all these years.
Unless the village has a clear cut reason for purchasing that land, such as paving it over to create a permanent municipal parking lot, I don't think council should authorize the village manager to bid on it. Village council meets on Oct. 15. The auction is on Oct.18. I'd hate to see them make a decision that was influenced by the time pressure involved.
But, a nice, paved-over parking lot with clearly marked parking spaces that could handle maybe 50 cars wouldn't be all that bad.