Parking still a concern in downtown area
By Megan Kelley
Lake Orion’s Downtown Development Authority Board of Directors met for their regularly scheduled meeting on Feb. 8 and voted to approve their annual priorities.
The board voted to make two of their top priorities for the 2022-23 fiscal year parking in general and pedestrian safety. Both items were listed as priorities for the DDA for 2021-22.
Prior to the regular meeting, the board met for a special meeting to discuss a number of potential projects that fit these priorities.
In recent months, the DDA has been surveying the community on what they believed would be the most beneficial to the downtown. The outcome of that survey showed that the majority of responders felt the four most important items were: parking in general, parks ecological sustainability, pedestrian safety and parks improvements.
With this information, DDA Executive Director Molly LaLone put together eight possible projects for the board to discuss.
Among the possible developments were several mid-sized projects and a few larger projects. The idea being that the DDA could select a few of the moderately-sized projects and get started on them right away, while selecting one of the large projects and begin researching and funding, said LaLone.
On the short list for the smaller projects was downtown lighting (estimated at $75,000), electrical charging stations (estimated at $25,000), dumpster enclosures (estimated at $30,000 each), downtown speakers (estimated at $87,000) and gazebo electrical improvements (estimated at $5,000).
The list of larger projects included bank stabilization along Paint Creek (estimated “a few years ago” at around $2 million), a one-level parking deck (estimated in 2019 at $4 million) and expanding recreation facilities (with a potential property purchase, estimated at $2.5 million).
According to LaLone, the Lake Orion DDA’s current undesignated fund balance is $46,954, with an additional $55,000 set aside for capital improvement projects.
Additionally, the DDA receives $200,000 annually and has $250,000 reserved for parking, said Village Manager Joe Young.
Board members all agreed that of the three larger projects, the most beneficial to the downtown would be a one-level parking deck. This parking deck would stack on top of the Children’s Park parking lot and would be expected to have its own entrance on Front Street.
Some back-and-forth discussion arose when deciding between downtown lighting, electrical charging stations, dumpster enclosures and gazebo electrical improvements.
After some discussion, the board found that each of the items had their perks but that some were more of a necessity, including downtown lighting and gazebo electrical improvements.
“That’s some of the feedback that we’re receiving from the community; that we’re not lit up enough. And when we do our events downtown at the gazebo you have to decide what you’re going to do because you’re going to blow the breaker,” said DDA Chair Debbie Burgess.
Dumpster enclosures were also a popular item to invest in, with several board members voicing their distaste for seeing garbage on the sidewalk. Dumpster enclosures would likely be placed outside of the center of town and would also give restaurants additional avenues of disposing of garbage on a daily basis.
Dumpsters would also improve the health, safety and welfare of the community and roads, said Village Council President Ken VanPortfliet.
The board also decided to pair together the one-level parking deck and electrical charging stations, stating that they would like to be in step with Orion Township. The newly constructed Orion Township Hall has eight electrical vehicle charging stations.
Downtown speakers were taken off the list and set aside as something the board could, perhaps, look at next year.
It was unanimously decided at the following regular meeting that the two priorities for 2022-23 would be parking in general and pedestrian safety, which will include a parking deck, electrical charging station, downtown lighting, dumpster enclosures and park electrical improvements as specific projects for the DDA to plan and budget.