DUNEDIN — Inquiring minds on the City Commission want to know why at site plan review developers of the Fenway Hotel assured the city it could handle all parking on site, but now some of its patrons park on side streets.
In two weeks the city will consider enacting a resident parking permit program on Lyndhurst and Locklie streets to prevent mainly roof-top bar visitors from parking on nearby neighborhood streets.
During their Jan. 10 meeting, commissioners learned they initially approved a site plan agreement that assured all parking would be contained on site. However, as the project evolved the property was split between two separate owners, the Fenway Hotel and Tai Chi Society, who are now in discussion over use of on-site parking.
Greg Rice, planning and zoning director explained the plan evolved dramatically from the onset of it. He said it was first approved as Tai Chi only, and city officials were never under the impression until recently that Tai Chi and the operators of The Fenway Hotel weren’t going to share their parking.
“When we looked at Tai Chi there was no rooftop bar. There was no restaurant; there was nothing when this was approved by the commission. I’ll take responsibility that through the different development agreement amendments, we didn’t foresee this coming like this,” Rice said. “This is not what was approved in the beginning at all.”
Rice said he plans to look at past meetings to determine if in the Development Agreement the 34 spaces in the back parcel would be available for parking.
Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski said “it’s my understanding the development agreement says they have to provide their own parking.”
She added that the commission approved the rooftop bar and restaurant, but she asked what happened.
“We were assured there was enough self-contained parking on site. Then the property split; that’s what caused the problem,” Bujalski said.
Rice said “Tai Chi is a partner in the LLC with Fenway. That is what is blowing my mind ‘what happened.’”
City Manager Jennifer Bramley added the city is waiting to see how Fenway will address its parking problem, whether it will be to put employee parking off site and shuttle staff or to acquire parking on the Fenway property.
Bramley explained the design review and site plan was approved for Fenway and at that time the assumption was the parking that was owned and is still owned by Tai Chi would be used for the hotel and that there would be shared parking for the hotel. The property was sold and it was divided into two pieces at that point.
“Representatives from Fenway and Tai Chi are at the table trying to negotiate how that parking is to be shared, but have not reached an agreement at this point,” Bramley said.
Commissioner Deborah Kynes said she drives by the Tai Chi lot all the time “and it’s not full and I don’t understand that log jam.”
“Tai Chi – they are also our partner and excellent corporate citizens, so let us work with Tai Chi. I don’t want them to take the blame this evening at all,” she said.
Bujalski noted the street parking issue is exacerbated by patrons of the roof top bar and restaurant who do not want to use valet parking, so they look for parking spaces on the street.
“People don’t want to go to a bar and valet, and it’s those people who are parking on the street. I have a problem implementing this and not knowing what the action plan is,” the mayor added.
Once the parking program comes into effect patrons of the rooftop bar will not be able to use those spaces, Bramley said, asking where will they go.
Rice said Fenway management hosted a neighborhood meeting to discuss traffic, parking and noise issues.
The consensus of the meeting was both residents and the Fenway are in favor of a resident parking permit program, Rice said. They also heard a number of other concerns from nearby residents; one was traffic, one was noise from the rooftop bar and another was exhaust from the kitchen system.
“The Fenway has been very receptive working on the noise issues,” Rice said.
A Fenway representative, general manger Shawn Routten told commissioners they are trying to resolve the parking problem issues.
Routten said the hotel “is working to find a common solution and realize it’s an issue and there needs to be a solution. It hasn’t been as quick and easy as we hoped it would be, but that doesn’t mean we don’t feel promising that we will reach a solution.”
Bramley said she would like to know what their action plan is in the next two weeks.
Rice added after the town meeting the consensus was to look at the traffic issues incrementally. City officials, he said, would start with the neighborhood parking program, which would allow for resident only parking on Locklie Street and Lyndhurst Avenue to see what that does.
“We hate to expand the program to Aberdeen and President if we don’t need to,” he added.
In addition the grass lot at 215 Locklie St. will no longer be able to be used. That is a residential parcel and surface parking is not a permitted use, Rice said.
As part of the resident parking program each vehicle registered to a household on the street would receive a rear-view mirror hanging tag. Upon request, two annual hanging tag permits will be issued per household at time of registration. The permits for occasional household visitor also can be used for day contractors and other visitors. There will be unlimited permits issued for large daily events.
Rice said the sheriff will enforce parking restrictions and ticket violators.
The mayor suggested enforcement should be rolled out gradually with a warning, because she can envision a resident forgetting their permit and being ticketed.
“We are looking for the Fenway to present a parking plan to use in the next few weeks,” Bramley said.
Rather than enacting a resolution at the Jan. 10 meeting, commissioners decided to inform residents on Lyndhurst and Locklie of the impending program, so they can voice their opinion before action is taken at the Jan. 24 meeting. Other nearby residents also may get door handle forms explaining the program.
Meanwhile, Bujalski noted the city has a development agreement with the Tai Chi Society and Fenway Hotel that reflected an adequate number of parking spaces on site. She asked City Attorney Tom Trask to contact the parties in hope of coming to a resolution. Trask noted it is the city’s right to enforce its development agreement.