Valerie Urbanik | Oberlin News-Tribune
Oberlin city council vice president Sharon Soucy says the city has to have on-street parking for downtown businesses to be successful.
Parking along East College Street remains a major issue among residents and business owners.
Numerous residents asked city council members Monday how many on-street parking spaces will be available by the Peter B. Lewis Gateway Center when construction is finished at the beginning of next year.
Officials meet Friday with Oberlin College reps to discuss the parking situation. Oberlin staff have recommended seven parallel spaces, said city manager Eric Norenberg.
Four of those would be temporarily used for drop-offs while construction is wrapped on Willard Court for the main entrance of the building.
A few residents thought roughly 19 on-street parking spaces along East College Street had been approved by the planning commission but that notion was refuted: “There was never a site plan approved with 18 or 19 parking spaces,” said planning director Carrie Handy.
She said the official site plan for the Gateway Center was approved in July 2014 with 46 conditions in order to gain approval — and zero on-street parking.
“One of those conditions was that design of the parking on East College Street would be resolved between city staff and Gateway staff,” she said.
The approved design shows the section along College Street striped off, barring parking. The plan includes a small drop-off area.
Naomi Sabel, co-founder of Sustainable Community Associates on East College Street, said the seven proposed spaces are not an adequate for the hotel or businesses across the street.
“I think we will have two large vacancies if the parking spaces are not restored,” she said. “Folks are really suffering.”
Handy said city officials proposed seven parallel spaces for fire safety reasons.
Chief Bob Hanmer said the city’s fire code determines what his department can and cannot allow with the building being four stories tall. His firefighters need to have access to the building with an aerial truck.
“We’re trying to follow the code as best as we can and meet their parking needs,” he said. “Nothing is set in stone. We’re still working with the college.”
“We have to provide safety,” said vice president Sharon Soucy. “We certainly don’t want to lose lives by not having access. On the other hand, we know businesses are the life blood of this community and then we know parking is the life blood of those businesses.”
She said if the bottom section of the inn along East College Street is expected to host commercial spaces, then there needs to be parking.
Handy said there used to be 18 diagonal spaces along the street before construction began on the inn.
A development agreement will have to come before council for approval and that will include any outstanding isses with the Gateway Center, including on-street parking.
A set date for the agreement to come before council has not been detemined.
Norenberg is expected to provide council with an update on the agreement and parking at the next council meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 5 at council chambers.
Valerie Urbanik can be reached at 440-775-1611 or on Twitter @ValUrbanik.