Ogden City considering new approach to public parking

Friday , May 04, 2018 - 5:15 AM3 comments

OGDEN — As activity in Ogden’s downtown increases and a surge of high-density housing continues to push the population there upward, available parking spaces are growing scarcer. 

But city officials have made it clear: Building more and bigger slabs of asphalt to accommodate cars isn’t just short-sighted — it’s irresponsible.

During his six-plus years in office, Mayor Mike Caldwell has consistently preached the need for a paradigm shift along the Wasatch Front — one that includes relying less on cars and more on buses, trains, bicycles and other forms of active transportation. 

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But while that shift moves at a glacial pace, people are still looking for places to park. During a City Council work session earlier this year, Ogden’s Director of Community and Economic Development Tom Christopulos said the city’s downtown has “more parking than we’ve ever had, even though people complain about it more.”

A fledgling Washington Boulevard business could soon serve as a downtown parking litmus test of sorts, perhaps working as a model for others to follow.

On Wednesday, Ogden’s planning commission approved an action that will allow a reception center to open for business in the city’s central business district, with zero on-site parking stalls.

According to commission documents, Cody and Jenie Reed want to open the center, to be called “The Venue,” in a newly renovated building at 2318 Washington Blvd. The space sits on the east side of the street, immediately south of Weber State Downtown.   

The center would offer space for events like wedding receptions, high school dances, private parties, conferences and conventions.

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Under current Ogden City code, a convention center of its size (approximately 4,250 square feet) would require 106 on-site parking stalls, or one stall for every 40 square feet.

In their application to open the center with zero stalls, the Reeds say there are more than 200 parking stalls near their site that would be available in the evenings and on weekends, the prime operating times for the center.

According to the planning documents, most of that parking is public or owned by the Weber/Morgan Health Department — an entity that has agreed to share their parking. 

Ahead of the commission’s vote, Ogden’s Planning Division recommended approval of the request, saying in their recommendation the plan “will not create parking shortages to the surrounding uses” and a reception is an “ideal use in the central business district as it draws people to the downtown area.”

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In the council work session (which wasn’t directly related to the reception center issue) Christopulos said parking doesn’t “sustain long-term value in a community.”

He said the city relies on housing property taxes to build the revenue to pay for city services and infrastructure. When it comes to new development, the city is in the “land production business.”

“We take a raw piece of ground and produce revenues from it — if you use it wrong, you limit your revenue,” he said. “You’re shooting yourself in the foot by making parking requirements as high as possible for convenience sake.” 

Unlike most other city measures that go onto the City Council for approval, the planning commission’s vote on the parking reduction constitutes a final action.

You can reach reporter Mitch Shaw at mishaw@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @mitchshaw23 or like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/MitchShaw.StandardExaminer.

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