Businesses concerned about city's parking changes

November 17, 2011 9:18:34 AM PST
Some business owners are concerned about changes in the city's parking ordinance. The city is looking to overhaul its entire parking ordinance and while parts of it are not controversial at all, others say there are problems.

Refurbishing an old Montrose bar into a new restaurant isn't a problem for Bobby Heugel, if he can just figure out how many parking spaces he needs.

"I think our concern is just the inconsistency from the city," said Heugel.

He is among a growing group of local restaurant and bar owners worried about certain proposed changes in the city's parking ordinance. Dozens crowded into last week's planning commission meeting to point out that the proposed regulations would only encourage suburban, strip center style developments, in their opinion.

"The proposed parking ordinances basically require a 25 percent increase in minimum parking requirement for restaurants, and a 40 percent increase in bars," said Heugel.

If passed, per 1,000 square feet of space, every new restaurant will need to provide 10 parking spaces, every bar 14, and six for every bakery. The idea, says the city, is to cut down on the number of cars that crowd neighborhood streets.

"We're trying to strike a balance. A balance between encouraging an economically viable area balanced with protecting our neighborhoods," said Marlene Gafrick, Director of the Houston Planning Department.

In neighborhoods that are within walking distance to bars, some residents can't wait for more required parking.

"They're getting their business in, so why should it be a hassle having more parking for their own customers," said resident Jessica Roman.

As for Heugel, he says local restaurants want to be good to their neighborhoods. He just doesn't see larger parking lots as the simple solution.

"They want to support mass transportation, they want to support urban density, but policies like this just represent a total conflict in municipal planning," Heugel said.

On Thursday morning, City Council will hold a meeting about the parking ordinance at City Hall.

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