SIDNEY — A parking lot at the northeast corner of Poplar Street and West Avenue in the former Goodwin Furniture store property is transitioning into public parking.
It is point of contention for LRF Properties, the owner of the Canal Place Apartments at 121 W. Poplar St, and the former tenant of the city owned lot, which is located across the street from the apartment complex. The city of Sidney is expected to adopt legislation to officially change the lot from a private lot to public parking in April after Sidney City Council was first introduced to an ordinance on the matter during its Monday evening meeting.
R.J. Horwitz, asset manager for LRF Properties, said the loss of the private parking lot will cause his tenants at the low income apartment complex, inhabited by several people with special needs, to lose their designated parking and force them to walk further to get home. He noted 30% of Canal Place Apartment’s tenants are disabled and worry if they leave their parking spot, they would have to park farther away and struggle upon returning to make it home.
“We were told we needed to open up our private parking lot, which we have been been making payments on quarterly for the last 10 years,” Horwitz said. “It was part of the financing and zoning regs in 1995 when the apartments were renovated using the Ohio financing funds. And the way it works, is that you have to have a certain amount of parking spaces for every apartment rented, and I believe the density was 1.3. And if you have 55 apartments, that brings it up to 75 spaces that are required under zoning. Because I am under the Ohio Finance Authority regulations.”
After the 2019 holiday season, City Council temporarily removed the two-hour parking time limits downtown to help businesses. From Dec. 31, 2019, the city extended the amnesty program through November 2022. This resolution extended the suspension of the enforcement of violations of “designated two-hour free parking spaces” on streets within the nine-block area bordered by West Avenue, North Street, Miami Avenue and South Street. It does not include the metered spaces in front of the post office or overnight parking in these on-street spaces. This move then prompted discussion about reviewing and updating downtown parking in general. Then in 2021, the city began to re-evaluate all downtown parking and various sections of the zoning were amended.
Horwitz said he was given a deadline of April 1, 2022, to remove the electronic gated arm that prevented the public from utilizing the lot, and to take down their signs. He complied early in March, but feels the city doesn’t care about his residents’ needs. Horwitz also said they have not received a refund from the city for the unused portion of the rent they already paid for the lot to be private parking for Canal Place tenants.
Monday night, City Council was introduced to an ordinance to amend a section of the zoning code to officially designate the former Goodwin parking lot, owned by the city, as being available for free public parking.
“We have made it easier for those residents to park in city’s lot for free. We have made it open to the public, but that’s because we have ample parking. We also opened up the back lot, that reaches back to the post office, so now you can get through there extremely easy and we’ve actually added more mobility for those individuals to come in and park,” City Manager Andrew Bowsher told the Sidney Daily News when asked about the concerns Horwitz raised.
“Individuals now don’t have to exit just out onto Poplar Street, they can actually exit up on North Street or even on Ohio Avenue, if you go around the corner and out. And they can also get out onto West Avenue, as well, which was blocked off to them before. Now, no one is getting charged. They still have the ability to park there for free, and it will off-shoot local business parking issues,” Bowsher continued.
Horwitz and the Canal Place Office Manager Lisa Derosiers said during a joint call that residents were not charged to use the lot, but rather were only charged deposit for an issued gate opener. Derosiers said tenants have expressed great concern and frustration about losing their designated parking and the potential of a long walk to make it back to their apartment. Some are afraid to even leave for fear once it gets late and activity in the downtown increases, the public will have already taken up all nearby parking.
Bowsher further noted the city was paying for the electricity and maintenance for the gate recently removed that LRF Properties did not have permission to install to begin with. Bowsher said they are trying to do the best thing for the community as a whole.
“So we solved the problem, because (LRF Properties) never had a contract on that property, for our residents that want to park downtown, the residents of Canal Place and our local businesses,” Bowsher said. “It really, truly was a win-win-win for everybody.”
Sidney City Council will further consider the Poplar Street parking lot ordinance at its April 11, 2022 meeting. Citizens with concerns should contact the city of Sidney or Sidney City Council members.