Monday, April 15, 2024

114 West Elm Street
Graham, NC 27253
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Graham city council debates adequacy of parking for infill residential project near downtown


Having spent three hours on its first rezoning request, Graham city council members labored for almost two more hours over the next one: a proposed infill project on 1.15 acres at the corner of North Maple and West Market streets.

This time, however, there was no outpouring of neighborhood opposition; there were no public comments at all.

Rather, the council members debated among themselves and discussed with the city’s staff whether Graham developer Jason Cox’s proposal for 46 parking spaces to serve his proposed eight buildings with 38 units (and 48 bedrooms) was adequate.

The proposed development consists of two, three-story brick buildings along West Market Street with a six units each; four “little cottages” with two bedrooms each; and two, three-story “farmhouse-style houses with wraparound porches” that would front Maple Street with nine units in each. Thus, there are a total of 38 units with 48 bedrooms; there are 28 one-bedroom units, and ten two-bedroom ones.

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[Story continues below photos of the potential components of the project.]

According to the city’s zoning ordinance, there are to be 1.5 on-site parking spaces for every residence in a multi-family project.

With 38 units, that would require 57 parking spaces.

But the plans as presented included only 46 parking spaces; Amanda Hodierne, the Greensboro attorney who had handled the first three-hour rezoning request, subsequently handled Cox’s. He was not present for the discussion.

Hodierne later volunteered to find two more spaces that could be added, so that there would be one space for every bedroom, but that number was still short of the city’s formula of 57 required spaces.

Hodierne this week, and Cox in previous appearances, stressed the project’s proximity to downtown, and a nearby municipal parking lot, as well as the different clientele (i.e., those who wouldn’t be as inclined to drive) likely to be attracted to his project.

A new wrinkle this week was an emphasis that Hodierne put on the possibility of on-street parking along West Market Street beside the residential units as providing additional parking.
In particular, Hodierne tried to emphasize that the likelihood of those using “overflow” parking, either on the street or in a city parking lot, would be visitors, rather than ongoing tenants at the development.

But Graham mayor Jennifer Talley expressed concerns about deviating from the ordinance’s strict requirements. “I think it is dangerous for the city to be counted on to provide parking for private development.”

Hodierne then cited a “precedent set” when the city council recently approved another infill project that she said had similar parking limitations.

Without saying so directly, Hodierne referred to a project that Talley and her husband, Chuck Talley, are planning to build on North Marshall and East Elm. Cox had made the same point to the planning board last month.

The mayor did not participate in the council’s approval of the project in June – she recused herself from the discussion and left the meeting room – but this week, she pointed out to Hodierne that she and her husband’s project actually had more parking than required under the city’s ordinance.

Their project with 11 residential units would require 17 spaces under the city’s formula (1.5 x 11 units = 16.5). But Cox’s larger project with 38 units (and 46 parking spaces) was well short of the 57 required under the same formula.

Hodierne tried to emphasize that there is “ample parking on site” for the types of people who would likely inhabit the downtown residential project.

She offered to modify the project to increase the parking to 48, representing one space per bedroom in the 38 units.

Council member Bonnie Whitaker expressed concern about not wanting to “start a precedent of relying on city parking lots” for a residential project.

With the city lot about a block or half-block away, some questioned whether it was realistic to expect residents of the new project to walk that far.

Attention then turned to the possibility of on-street parking along West Market Street.

Members debated whether on-street parking could be overnight, with some initial discussion that it could not be, but assistant city manager Aaron Holland later clarified that the only limit on overnight parking is along the downtown streets immediately surrounding the courthouse, because street sweepers need to be able to clean the pavement periodically.

“Isn’t there some acceptable balance” that could be arrived at, Hodierne asked as the discussed dragged on.

As council members debated what specific number to require on site, Hodierne pressed for a formula rather than a specific number, so that if only part of the project was built, the overall number of parking spaces would be a ratio.

Finally, Talley came up with a formula to get to the 48 spaces Hodierne had offered, suggesting 1.26 spaces per unit. Members seemed to be satisfied that another nine spaces could be obtained by parking in marked spaces along West Market Street.

However, Whitaker and Parsons emphasized that the spaces would not be “designated or reserved” for tenants in Cox’s project, but would simply be available, as they would be to anyone else who might want to park there.

The council then voted at about midnight unanimously for the rezoning with Talley’s suggested formula for parking.

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