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Downtown parking proposal causes a stir

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Rules may change for the city Port Watson Street parking lot between Cortland Repertory Theatre and the Gable Inn.

Tuesday night’s city Common Council meeting drew about seven area residents who voiced their concern over a proposed law to change permit parking spots in the Port Watson Street municipal lot — next to the Cortland Repertory Theatre Downtown — to 2-hour non-permit parking spots.

The proposed law aims to change the first 12 “southern most” parking spaces in the lot from 3-hour and permit parking to 2-hour ,non-permit parking.

The change would make that area of the lot function the same as on-street parking.

A public hearing was held on the matter before the start of the meeting, with seven area residents either opposing the idea or asking for an alternative option to the parking situation.

Attorney John Folmer spoke on behalf of the theater’s board of directors, stating while he has no position on the change, it would affect the theater’s operation since many employees use the nearby parking spaces.

“Parking is, as you all know better than I do, a significant serious long-term, long-standing problem within the city,” he said. “The problem with adjusting a portion of a parking lot without looking at the whole thing is that you may be solving one problem, but creating five others.”

His suggestion was that the council take the time to conduct a necessary study to see how the theater, Main Street businesses and others would be affected.

Ann Doyle of Cortland said she thinks the city needs more long-range planning and urged city officials to speak with local businesses before making the change.

Jim Coon, an employee at Cortland Press and Carbon Copy, at 87 Main St., said the change to the parking spots could hamper his work. His boss pays for his parking permit so he can park in the Port Watson Street lot near the building, but even with a permit the changes would make finding a place to park more difficult.

“First I can’t park without a permit, now I will get a ticket if I don’t go out and move my car,” Coon said. “I can’t just jump out every two hours and move my car.”

He did not have a proposed solution for the problem, but also thought the council should not jump into making any decision on the matter.

Sarah Sears, an employee at Elm Crest Childrens Center, at 99 Main St., said the employees need to be able to park close to the building due to the nature of the job.

“We transport a lot of young children who are in foster care, so we need to have close access (to the building), she said.

During the Feb. 7 Common Council meeting, Mayor Brian Tobin explained that the Elmcrest Children’s Center, formerly located on Lincoln Avenue, recently moved into space at 99 Main St. where the Cortland Works Career Center is located and had purchased a total of 14 parking permits.

In an effort to prevent overcrowding in the Port Watson Street lot, the city was considering restricting parking in the lot which already sees a lot of use.

“Some of these parking permits are being utilized in spots that traditionally have been used by people who are patronizing some stores and businesses in the downtown area,” he said at the Feb. 7 meeting.

Peter Sheridan of Cortland said at Tuesday’s meeting while he would like to see new businesses fill up downtown Cortland, there would not be many options for them to park. His suggestion was the city look into building a parking garage.

Mayor Brian Tobin said he will “pull together the council members and see what their thoughts on the matter are.” The council can vote at its next meeting in March. Between now and then minor changes can be made to the proposed law.

“I’m concerned about the local businesses that could be impacted,” Tobin said.

There were “a number” of parking spaces added to the parking lot behind the fire department and Grace and Holy Spirit Church on Court Street that are not used as much as they could be, he said.

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