By Jim Newell
Finding parking spots in downtown Lake Orion can be problematic, but village officials hope a new parking plan will help visitors to the business district find parking spots and create the necessary turnover in downtown lots.
In 2017, the village council created a Parking Advisory Committee comprised of members from the village council and administration, planning commission, Downtown Development Authority and police department.
Some of the changes that will be enacted include greater enforcement of parking restrictions, including adding four new parking enforcement agents with the ability to ticket vehicles.
“We tried to propose some improvements that make parking downtown better for everyone,” said Scott Reynolds, chairman of the village’s parking advisory committee. “The walkability of the downtown is a crucial part.”
The four key pillars of the plan are physical improvements, education, enforcement and zoning, according to a news release from the parking committee. Many of the tenets of the plan will go into effect in 2019.
The village and DDA will continue re-striping and re-surfacing parking within the downtown, and this year created parking spaces along Shadbolt, west of Lapeer Street. The DDA is in the process of adding new parking spots along N. Anderson Street across from Lockhart’s restaurant.
The plan also includes setting new time limits on parking lots.
Parking on downtown streets will be limited to two hours. The municipal lot on the north side of Lockhart’s and the lot on Anderson/Front streets (the old Whiskey’s site) are being shifted from 23-hour lots to six-hour lots to help create turnover and open up more parking.
The new lot between the fire station and the Orion Art Center on Anderson Street has 19 spots and is a 23-hour parking lot. The municipal parking lot on Anderson Street, next to Children’s Park, and the lot on Shadbolt/Lapeer (behind Fork ‘n Pint) will remain 23-hour lots, according to the plan.
“We know that people perceive (a lot) is 100 percent full when it’s only 85 percent full. So, drive around one more time and they may find a spot,” Reynolds said.
DDA Executive Director Molly LaLone said the village has already installed some signs directing traffic to village lots and new wayfinding signs – for parking and amenities – should be installed by the end of the year.
A new naming convention for parking lots within the downtown will be implemented in the beginning of 2019. Parking lots will have addresses for easier identification and GPS navigation. Downtown parking maps will be available for businesses to share with their patrons and will also be available on the village website, according to the parking committee news release.
On the enforcement side, four new civilian parking enforcement agents will patrol the lots and use a web-based software as a digital enforcement tool to help track how long vehicles have been parked in a lot and allow for the issuance of tickets.
“They’re tasked with just enforcing parking. The time that gets put into enforcement is much more efficient,” Reynolds said. “We’re hoping to create some turnover in parking spots, which is a component we’re currently lacking.”
The proposed parking ticket fees are a warning for the first offense, $15 for the second offense, $30 for the third offense and $45 thereafter.
“What I would like the public to know is that the end goal is not to create enforcement and write more tickets, but rather to help promote a more efficient parking system,” Reynolds said. “We know that turnover rates are low by industry standards. Our goal is to create those parking spaces that people need.”
The planning commission and village’s professional consultants will review zoning ordinances, including parking, loading and trash requirements for new developments.
“Tools implemented by surrounding communities such as monetary contributions towards a public parking fund by new developments will also be considered. A public parking fund could contribute towards additional parking within the downtown including a parking deck,” according to the parking committee.
Village and DDA officials also are working on plans to open up spots by “redistributing” employees of downtown businesses to the longer-term parking lots, opening up street spots and short-term lots for customers, and want to explore e-permitting for employees and downtown residents.
“We’re trying to holistically improve everything,” Reynolds said. “It’s going to take everyone getting on board for this system to work successfully.”
For additional information visit: lakeorion.org or downtownlakeorion.org; or contact Village Manager Joe Young at email@example.com or 248-693-8391 ext. 101; or DDA Executive Director Molly LaLone at firstname.lastname@example.org, 248-693-9742.