A story in the Westport News on second-floor retail space ("P&Z votes down upper-level retail space," Jan. 16) stated that "some P&Z commissioners ... might consider examining downtown parking issues in the future," and Commissioner Ron Corwin was quoted as saying "Anything that encourages us to seriously address the downtown parking issue in a big-idea way is something I would favor."
I and, I believe, many others do not agree that we have a downtown parking issue.
Downtown parking has long been a popular subject and has been studied in the past. Thoughtful people can have differing views, but past studies conclude that downtown does not have a shortage of parking spaces. In my judgment, downtown Westport presently has sufficient parking space.
Parking is somewhat disjointed because public and private parking areas are separated by unattractive fences. Also, potential confusion arises from differing parking time limits and resulting difficulties in enforcement, and there are some very limited crowded times during the height of the holiday season or when a major special event is occurring. Of course, there are also those who object to having to walk a few blocks.
To the extent that the P&Z Commission desires to address parking when a new use arises downtown or there is new construction, that is appropriate. For Commissioner Corwin or others to seek to propose solutions for a problem that does not now exist is not appropriate. While chairman of the P&Z, Commissioners Corwin sought a regulatory change that he hoped would promote the construction of additional parking in the Baldwin Lot to enliven downtown. That change placed the cart before the horse. It was not well received by the public and was not adopted.
Downtown Westport is now and will continue to experience change. The Downtown 2020 Committee is in the midst of trying to coordinate and maximize the benefits of that change, including likely proposals conveyed by or through that committee. If those changes materially decrease the present number of downtown parking spaces, it is in the course of that process that the issue of sufficient parking will arise, not before.
RTM member, District 1