Although it appeared as of Monday night that Leesburg Town Council members were not quite ready to pull the trigger on a downtown parking study, one issue will be coming up for study this coming fiscal year: What to do about the Town Hall parking garage?
Town Manager Kaj Dentler has emphasized to council members in recent years that the garage’s fee collection equipment is not only somewhat antiquated, but aging. The fiscal year 2018 budget includes a $250,000-line item, within the Capital Asset Replacement Fund, to improve the garage’s automation.
Dentler said hiring a parking industry consultant would be a critical start to the research. There are many options out there to bring the garage to today’s technology, including the installation of Smart Parking Meters throughout the garage, and/or the use of payment by smartphones such as ParkMobile. That app was rolled out by the town last year for its on-street meters and the town’s new Church Street lot.
Dentler also said another technology to consider is LED lighting in the garage for directions and safety, along with lights that indicate to drivers whether a space is available.
Council members have long pressed to move away from having employees stationed in the garage’s Market Street exits to collect fees. Dentler said those staff members could instead focus on enforcement. This is a task they already perform, but at times they have to leave their post and leave the garage gates open while they monitor the streets, meaning a loss in revenue.
What to do about downtown parking supply, as it relates to demands placed on those developing commercial and residential projects in the area, will also soon be up for discussion. The council has asked to examine its payment-in-lieu program, which allows developers to make payments to the town parking fund instead of providing otherwise-required parking on their property. The fund, which must be used only for public parking, has a balance of more than $220,000.
Council members and business leaders have criticized the program as ineffective—failing to provide additional parking spaces and serving as a disincentive to development downtown.
Dentler said he expects to have at least initial discussion on how to move forward with the payment-in-lieu program at the council’s April 24 work session.