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Sunday, February 18 Local

Goals outlined for parking authority

The Parking Authority created a mission statement and outlined goals to tackle the lack of parking in Darien.

At Monday's meeting, the Board of Selectmen, in its role as the Parking Authority, approved the mission statement quickly and unanimously. It reads: "The Darien Parking Authority seeks to create and implement parking solutions that balance the needs of Darien commuters, shoppers/visitors and downtown employers."

The goals the authority outlined include planning for the creation of new parking capacity, identifying organizations for a public-private partnership for a garage, studying the utilization and turnover rates in parking lots, and developing a long-term strategic plan for the overall parking in town.

"I think by noting that we're seeking private-public partnership shows we're not wanting taxpayers to shoulder that burden," First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said.

The authority also opted to include a public education component and a public feedback aspect to its goals.

"My only question would be, is there any way to incorporate some language to let people know that we're thinking of them -- specifically the residents of Darien -- to guide our thinking with all our recommendations that we make?" asked Selectman Reilly Tierney.

"Some of the solutions that we're looking to create will benefit tenants who may not be Darien residents, as well as visitors and shoppers," said Stevenson. "We do have to be careful. We have to pay close attention to the one town-owned lot at Leroy West.

"I think we've all been vocal about our desire to increase capacity," Stevenson said.

She added that the authority should have simple goals that maximize the parking on town-owned lands.

Selectman Susan Marks said the authority needs to make sure that all constituents are considered while determining the best solution to the parking problems.

"Our approach to capacity will have to have different takes depending on what property we're talking about," Town Administrator Karl Kilduff said.

The downtown parking lots are town-owned, as well as the Leroy West train parking lot. The remaining train parking lots are owned by the state.

Currently, there is not enough permit parking to accommodate drivers living in or coming to town. According to Kilduff, there are 605 permits issued annually for the seven parking lots, but 1,468 people still are on the waiting list.

There is a seven-year waiting period for a permit for the Noroton Heights train station lot and a 10-year wait period for the Darien train station lot.

The authority unanimously voted to re-purpose funds for a parking structure feasibility study in the proposed 2014-15 capital budget for a parking lot utilization and traffic study at the Leroy West parking lot to determine if the construction of a parking structure is possible. The selectmen proposed $231,040 for the parking capital fund for the 2014-15 budget.

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The traffic study would be a primary driver in the determination of a parking structure.

However, discussion centered around the appropriate time to conduct the study, noting that during the summer months families are away on vacation.

"I don't want us to pay for a traffic study and then someone say it wasn't done during the peak season," Hall said.