Summit’s City Administrator wrote a January 16, 2015, memo to the Mayor and Common Council which outlined the proposed Council Goals in a Score Card format. The memo sets out 5 sections: Fiscal Responsibility, Safety, Downtown, Communication, and Infrastructure.

The focus of this opinion letter is the Downtown section and two enumerated goals Number 1 and Number 4,  The first downtown goal reads” Implementing the recommendations from the Downtown Study. The report was received in 2014 and several recommendations have been under consideration by Summit Downtown Incorporated. Final action on the recommendations is a goal of this year” (Building & Grounds).  The fourth goal reads: “The need for additional parking capacity in the downtown has been identified and the authorization to construct a new parking garage is a goal for 2015. (General Services).

Regardless of your engagement with Summit downtown be it-property owner, leaseholder, business owner, employee, commuter or visitor/shopper- everyone wants a good downtown experience.  However, to achieve improvement may take both critical thinking about the delivery of City services and greater public input on solutions.

Take the first goal. The City Administrator’s fair sounding words suggest acceptance of the Downtown Burgis study and its recommendations. I don’t recall ever seeing a list of recommendations or of the public discussion about them. The Administrator goes on to attribute only “under consideration” to SDI’ s review of the study. The Administrator is not clear as to exactly how the City got from the 2014 Goal of “ Evaluate recommendations from the Downtown Study” to the 2015 Goal of “Implement Downtown Planning Recommendations” Was a step missed?

The fourth Downtown goal seeks  “authorization” to build a new or third parking garage.  The City Administrator claims that the need for more parking capacity has been identified and a new parking garage is the only solution under consideration. In my reading of the Burgis Downtown Study it looks like the beating heart of the study was support of a new parking garage.  However, careful reading of the Burgis study calls into doubt whether the author made a fair-minded and complete review of parking issues which would end in a conclusion that “shortage of capacity” and a potentially multi-million dollar garage structure is the only answer.

It is also worth notice here that Mayor Dickson in her 2015 state of the City address adds to this subject by stating that. “Our head of parking services, Council and I continue to believe we need a new parking garage. Site evaluation and traffic studies should move forward in 2015. Please remember the parking is not paid for by taxpayers; parking revenues cover the costs. I also believe such a project will also add to the value of downtown properties.”

Taxpayers don’t pay parking fees? It’s time to run the numbers for this proposed project.

My opinion on parking is based on a daily use of the parking system both as a customer of the service and payer of parking fees.  The City of Summit struggles with getting the right balance between service and fee in the Fee for Service world of parking. The management for user satisfaction and proper allocation between user groups of the nearly 3,000 public/private parking spaces within walking distance of the downtown is where the action should be in 2015.
The public should weigh-in.
Robert Steelman