UPDATE: Council to further evaluate parking-in-lieu fee for Newhall businesses

FILE PHOTO: Cars park along Main Street in Newhall on Friday, Nov. 24, 2017. Nikolas Samuels/The Signal

To address the limited parking available in Old Town Newhall, Santa Clarita City Council members voted to move ahead Tuesday with a plan for a “parking-in-lieu” fee.  

The top-two choices the city presented to property owners was to put the cost on Downtown Newhall shoppers to pay for parking, or for a “parking-in-lieu” fee, which created a structured fee, requiring new developments to pay for additional spaces.

The plan offers free parking for Old Town Newhall visitors; however, if approved, new and expanding property owners could see a fee starting at $5,855.10 per spot to pay for the city’s parking needs.

The cost, which would charge business owners a one-time fee for new property owners with 1,500 or more square feet of retail space, would increase by that amount for every additional 350 square feet of space.

The fees would only be collected from expanding businesses or new developments, according to city officials.

City staff also ensured a payment plan option that can be paid over the course of up to five years for business owners. Funds from the fee will go directly to the future permanent parking in Old Town Newhall, including property purchases and development.

Council members also offered differing views on the urgency of the parking situation during the discussion of the plan.

Santa Clarita City Councilman Bob Kellar noted the longer the city waits to make a decision, the more it will cost in the future, referring to almost ever-growing construction costs, in his motion to advance the fee to a second hearing.

Santa Clarita Mayor Cameron Smyth said he’d like to re-evaluate the issue after there’s time to look at how a new parking structure, which is slated to open in spring 2018, will improve the parking concerns.

“Is there any reason why we couldn’t wait until the spring and see what impact the structure has?” Smyth asked.

Paid parking was also considered, though it did not garner support from city staff, council members or many community members.

There are no other places in Santa Clarita that use paid parking, cited Economic Development Associate Denise Covert. If this avenue were pursued, Covert advised hiring a consultant.

Councilwoman Marsha McLean said she was 100 percent opposed to paid parking and has never had trouble finding a spot to park during her regular visits to Newhall.

Similarly, Santa Clarita Valley resident of 50 years Juanita Fitzgerald said she has never had a problem parking in Old Town Newhall.

Having to pay for parking would ensure she would not go to lunch in Old Town Newhall anymore, she said.

“I think paid parking is a stupid idea, personally,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s always been free, it’s always been fun. Just leave it.”

Main Street property owner Jim Coffey said paid parking should not be discounted by city staff and ought be further evaluated.

“I think it’s a necessary part of what is going to have to be a part of Old Town Newhall,” Coffey said.

Joseph Jasik, owner of German Autohaus on 9th Street, said making people pay for parking would push locals away from Newhall and into Valencia and Stevenson Ranch to do business.

Also, he said a parking structure will attract homeless people to sleep inside of it.

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