City urged to buy home for downtown parking

by Emmitt B. Feldner
of The Review staff

PLYMOUTH – Plan Commission member Jim Flanagan thinks the city should become a home buyer.

Specifically, Flanagan argued at Thursday’s commission meeting that the city should consider buying a home for sale at 107 Smith St., adjacent to a public parking lot at the northeast corner of Smith and Mill streets.

“Looking at our comprehensive plan and the Plymouth downtown revitalization master plan, this area is listed under streetscape and parking enhancement,” he said of the home for sale.

The commission discussed Flanagan’s proposal, but tabled any action to their Aug. 3 meeting.

Flanagan noted that the home is listed for sale at $69,000. He said his reasons for proposing the purchase by the city are two-fold – to create additional downtown parking or to make further downtown development possible.

While he conceded that adding the small parcel to the existing parking lot next door would not add a significant number of new parking spaces, it would help ease what he called a parking shortage in that part of downtown.

“The west portion of the Mill Street downtown area is definitely seeing increased development and employment,” Flanagan pointed out. “As a result, parking becomes a real difficult issue there.”

He also pointed out that expanding the parking lot to north could help create a safer configuration to the lot.

The current entrance to the lot is dangerously close to the Smith/Mill street intersection, Flanagan said. Creating a larger lot could enable that entrance to be moved a safe distance to the north.

The lot could also be used to create a development parcel downtown if the city so wished, Flanagan added.

He suggested that, if the city chose to wait after purchasing the home, it could be rented to provide income to offset the purchase price.

Commission member Bill Barbieur endorsed Flanagan’s proposal.

“This shows good foresight, rather than the poor foresight the city has shown on occasions in the past,” Barbieur commented. “This is a major step and something that could really benefit us in the future.”

Mayor Donald Pohlman and City Administrator Brian Yerges raised the fiscal cautionary flag.

“There’s merit in it, but it definitely has to be part of our budget process,” Pohlman commented. “I have trouble talking about spending $69,000 (to) $80,000 that’s not in our budget.”

Yerges noted that the city is already committed to roughly $200,000 in capital project expenses for 2018 on the municipal parking structure on the east end of Mill Street.

That will include finishing off the wall where the ramp to the structure was removed this year, fixing a hole in the structure and possibly repairing and upgrading the stairs at the structure.

Yerges stressed that that spending project would take precedence over any other spending for parking in the next year.

Pohlman conceded that park- ing improvements are needed on the west end of Mill Street, especially in the area between the street and the Mullet River. But he suggested that parking issues in the entire area should be studied and addressed all at once.

“I’d hate to piecemeal it,” he stated.

“I’m not ready to make any recommendation tonight. I’d like to know more,” said commission member John Nelson. He suggested that the city could explore obtaining an option to buy the home at a future date.


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