By Jim Newell
There could be some major changes coming to parking in downtown Lake Orion.
And the village’s parking study ad-hoc committee hopes the changes will ease the congested parking problems in the downtown district.
During its meeting on Monday, the committee discussed making the 15-minute parking spots permanent, pay-to-park options and pursuing valet parking during peak visitor hours.
15-minute parking spots
The village began testing four, 15-minute parking spots around downtown Lake Orion last month and is now looking at installing permanent signs on those spots. Currently, the village is using wood A-frames with signs to designate those spots.
The pilot program was run through the end of the year and then be evaluated, Manager Joe Young said.
The purpose of the short-term spots was to allow people who needed short-term parking to pick up food orders, drop off documents or run into a business the opportunity to do so and create quick turnover, said village council President Ken Van Portfliet.
On-street parking in the village is limited to two hours, while parking in village lots is limited to either six hours or 23 hours, depending on the lot.
The problem with the temporary, movable, signs is, however, that people either ignore them or move them.
The village now plans to install 15-minute parking signs on poles and paint “15” on the pavement in those spots, said Young, adding that they could also paint the curb a color to further designate the spot as a short-term parking space.
The committee unanimously agreed to installing permanent 15-minute parking signs at four designated spots around the village.
Young said he would speak to the police chief about the extent of fines for those who violate the 15-minute parking limit, and about issuing a new traffic control order, which the village council would ultimately have to approve.
“We’ll get rid of the A-frames. No more A-frames,” Young said.
“We’ve already experienced some problems with people removing signs and parking there and having dinner. We’re looking at this as being real helpful parking solution to assist our businesses and the general public as well. So, they’re out there, please use them appropriately,” Van Portfliet said.
The village’s Parking Advisory Committee approved moving forward with test-piloting the 15-minute parking spots during its Sept. 3 meeting.
The village could consider parking meters in those spots to keep track of the allotted time. Whether or not meters would be paid or free is undecided.
What’s the goal of implementing a pay-to-park system in downtown Lake Orion? Is it to make money? Create turnover and free up more parking spots for visitors?
Should there be metered parking? Should it be for on-street parking only, or all downtown parking? Or, not at all?
Those are some of the questions parking committee members must contemplate while deciding how best to create parking turnover in the downtown district. Some noted that many downtowns have paid parking.
DDA Executive Director Molly LaLone said the committee, and village, should ask and define what their goals and objectives would be in instituting pay-to-park in Lake Orion before making a plan.
LaLone said she wasn’t in favor of instituting paid parking downtown with construction on the M-24 resurfacing project looming this spring, adding she didn’t want to create any more of a burden on downtown businesses that could be affected by the construction.
Van Portfliet agreed that he didn’t want to burden downtown businesses and that the village had been holding off on instituting a pay-to-park system. However, he said the village should still be developing plans, even if they are not implemented until after work on M-24 is finished.
The committee has scheduled a workshop for 5 p.m. March 3, prior to its regular meeting at 6 p.m., to discuss pay-to-park options. The committee meets in council chambers at Lake Orion Village Hall, 21 E. Church St. Meetings are open to the public.
Allan Goetz, co-owner of 20 Front Street music venue and café, broached the idea of bringing valet parking to the downtown, and suggested using the lots being created on Slater Street.
The DDA purchased two lots on Slater Street, had the houses demolished and is in the process of having parking lots created with 40-42 spots.
Goetz said the busiest times in the village were from 6-9 p.m. Thursday – Saturday and having valet parking could help with parking.
“I don’t see the downside of that. Really, our parking issue is a few times per week,” Goetz said. “It’s not, to me, a seven-day-a-week problem. It’s a nine-hour problem.”
Committee members agreed that exploring valet parking in the evenings on Thursday, Friday and Saturday was a good idea and could help open up spots downtown.
Developer Jeff Schmitz, who owns the four-story building at 120 S. Broadway St. and the lot at 44 E. Flint St., agreed that having a centralized valet service in Lake Orion on the weekends would be beneficial to the downtown.
“That’s a fabulous idea. It solves a lot of problems,” Schmitz said. “It seems quaint and adequate for this village. And it would benefit you guys (the village) financially.”
The committee proposed possibly having valet parking at Flint and Broadway streets or Front and Broadway streets, Young said.
The committee voted unanimously to have village administration and the Downtown Development Authority look into valet management companies and costs and present those findings at a future meeting.
Other items of discussion
Now that Front Street is two-way traffic in both directions, Young is also looking into the possibility of putting stop signs on Broadway Street at Front Street.
Currently, there are stop signs for traffic only on Front Street.
A village resident said that turning from Front Street on to Broadway Street was “a blind turn” especially when there are vehicles parallel parked on Broadway blocking visibility of oncoming traffic.