Thursday, March 13, 2008

Council - Reconsider the Parking Authority ordinance

Too much? Too soon? Too fast?

Normally, when one thinks of most local government actions it's either in the vein of when will an action finally happen or if government will ever notice the situation which needs action in the first place.

Here in Phoenixville, we apparently are on a fast track to an as yet undetermined "someplace".

The race seems to take on a life of it's own with all the new housing developments, new businesses, and, as of last night, proposed new ordinances.

I will come back to the topic of growth soon because we do need to be realistic as well as contemplative as we decide what we want as Phoenixville's future.

Most critically, the planning for that future requires foresight, the ability to maintain a bilateral view, and the ability and self-control to proceed cautiously.

Phoenixville Borough Council should take the time to reconsider a Parking Authority.

By listening to the reasonings of Council Members Ken Buckwalter and Richard Kirkner insofar as a creating a parking task force or department, the Council, the administration of the borough, and the public would then have the ability to gauge and identify all the parking problems in our community, the downtown issues as well as residential.

Buying time before the adoption of a new ordinance creating a Parking Authority will allow a task force to create a white paper, a position paper, outlining and detailing those borough-wide areas in which a problem exists. The board may also be charged with detailing a comprehensive plan which would include resolutions to problems, costs of remediating those problems, and examination of the need for a Parking Authority. Such a task force or department would make recommendations to Council.

Before the Borough Council votes to commit to a powerful authority with a mandated 50 years of existence, we all need to know exactly what a Parking Authority would do to or for Phoenixville.

Reconsider the Parking Authority.


Karen said...

Parking authority hearing OK’d

By G.E. Lawrence, Special to The Phoenix

PHOENIXVILLE — The attempt to establish a borough parking authority took another step Tuesday evening, but not without difficulty.

By a 6-2 margin, borough council approved the publication of an ordinance establishing an authority and of the authority’s articles of incorporation, as drafted by Andrew Rau and Andrew Verwey of the borough solicitor firm Unruh, Turner Burke & Frees. The ordinance would be subject to public comment and final council consideration April 15.

The ordinance followed Commonwealth statutory parameters for operating authorities, Rau said. But among those provisions was one that established a life expectancy of the authority of 50 years, another that vested full power of appointment in council president.

That was all too much for Richard Mark Kirkner, D-North. “I am surprised to see the far-reaching powers the authority would have,” he said. “We’re signing away [the Borough’s] full faith and credit” to the authority, he said, “and that ultimately lands on

homeowners. I’m much more comfortable with a parking department that would be answerable to us [Council] and accountable to taxpayers than with this arrangement that’s being concocted here.”

“I got the same feeling,” agreed Kendrick Buckwalter, R-West. “We have a parking inconvenience, not a parking problem. I wonder why this body has not considered a [parking] task force, and a task force could be up and running as soon as we decide it, even by the end of the month.”

“We have a parking problem, Ken, just ask business owners,” Carlos Ciruelos, D-East, retorted. “We’ve talked about this for months, years. [The authority] is the best alternative we have. And by definition, an authority is a close partnership with us, with the legislative authority.”

Kirkner remained dissatisfied. “Once again we’re trying to write legislation on the fly,” he said. “It’s a recurring theme with this council. You do this, you end up with bad legislation.”

Council President Henry Wagner challenged Kirkner’s judgment. “Give me an example of an ordinance that was passed by this council that was bad.”

Kirkner referenced the proposed changes to the Downtown Commercial (D-COMM) zoning district.

“But we sent that to the Planning Commission, and the Commission sent it back to us unchanged,” said Wagner.

“Well, if you pass this one, it’ll be bad,” said Kirkner.

“This has to be a council that’s willing to take action after all of these years,” said Wagner.

“We’re taking a leap of faith here,” said Kirkner. “We’re giving away the keys to the treasury.”

“That’s uncalled for,” said Ciruelos. “I’ve had it to death with this kind of posturing.”

“I’m insulted,” said Kirkner. “If I say ‘keys to the treasury’… I’m a writer. That’s just the way my brain thinks. I believe this. I believe this with my heart and soul. The president should keep better control of this council. That is preposterous. I’m trying to address substantive issues.”

Mike Handwerk, D-Middle, called for a vote to end debate. The motion to advertise the ordinance passed 6-2, with Kirkner and Buckwalter the dissenting votes.

Blogwalter said...

For those who missed the Council meeting, I repeat what I said at that meeting below:

A task force could be up and running by the end of the month; an authority will take several months to establish.

A task force can have a finite life; an authority has a life of 50 years.

A task force would not need start-up money; an authority would. Where is that money in the budget?

A task force’s membership would be as Council decides and answer back to Council; an authority’s membership is handpicked by the Council President, only, and doesn’t need to answer back to Council except when they need money.

A task force has oversight from Council, your elected representatives, whereas an authority doesn’t have that oversight.

Task force members could be appointed to the authority after it may be determined that an authority is really in the best interest of the Borough.

Karen said...

Thank you, Blogwalter, for your input.

The only logical step is the creation of the task force or department.

Frankly, I don't know what the rush is to adopt the Parking Authority ordinance when the ramifications of going forward at this early stage are basically unknown.

A task force, in reality, would also be considered a trial balloon for an authority.

Makes me wonder who or what is the entity pushing for a fast resolution.

Anonymous said...

What would a parking authority do, exactly?
Would a parking authority mean we would have to now pay for the limited parking spaces downtown? If we over-stayed our time frame would that mean parking tickets?

In summary, we have no place to park downtown now as it is. Phoenixville will be asking for us to pay for fighting to find a parking space? As usual, this borough has a way of shooting itself in the foot again and again. I'll go back to the malls, which by far offer much more than the downtown

Karen said...

Anonymous 2:51, a Parking Authority can be empowered by the municipality with many different charges. Your short question may turn into a rather lengthy response!

Most of what I recall are from various newspaper and magazine articles and websites as well as my personal notes (which I'm fairly certain have changed over the years) from my tenure as Phoenixville's last Parking Authority Chairman before it was disbanded in the early 1980's.

To my understanding, all parking authorities in Pennsylvania are mandated by law to provide adequate parking services for residents, visitors and businesses.

They have the ability to seek funding through various souces such as general obligation bonds, revenue bonds, parking fees, and other charges (special events come to mind).

They may acquire property by lease, purchasing it, gifts, or condemnation with some restrictions.

They may build and operate parking facilities, i.e., parking garages, on street parking and other off-street parking lots.

They may install meters, set a schedule of rates or fees, establish time limits, mark loading zones, tow-away zones, create residential parking permits, issue parking tickets, tow and or impound vehicles (some towns auction unregistered or uninsured vehicles), in other words, they may enforce all municipal parking regulations.

They are also the administrator of the facilities, and they use their revenue to manage all aspects and needs of the various parking methods, including the ability to hire employees with all the attending responsibilities, i.e., payroll, benefits, etc., and are self-sustaining when capital improvements are needed.

Please understand, Anonymous, that a Parking Authority in Phoenixville is NOT limited to what I've posted above. I'm sure their powers extend beyond what I remember and have included. This disclaimer is necessary because some of my information may be outdated.

If the real goal is to reduce parking complaints and provide parking for Phoenixville, my considered opinion is that for a small, 3.5 mile in circumference borough, a parking department or task force is more sufficient rather than the above overkill of a Parking Authority.

and the truth shall set you free said...

The problem as I see it is, if the project is viable, meaning it will make money, why are private developers not knocking down our doors to put up a garage? Why do we need to put tax payers’ dollars on the line, effect our credit rating and borrowing potential to back a project that cannot and most likely will not work? We do not face parking issues during the day, I am downtown every day, and there is always plenty of parking available. The problem comes at night, where the bars are the busiest. We are looking at attempting to set up a program that is the complete opposite of every format that is currently a success. We are looking to make free parking during the day and charge at night? That in and of itself will tell you that it is doomed.

The Steel Site will eventually work itself out in the end, (something the paper still refuses to respond too is the MacPuke statement that is posted on other blogs regarding his relationship with King John.). If they do not want to produce and present plans that fit into current zoning and work WITH the Planning Commission, we cannot force them to negotiate. Why is it that we need to bend over backwards for developers, any developer? We have zoning regulations for reasons, to provide diverse areas in which to live! If they wish to develop that area, such as the new twin towers, why not provide a reasonable plan that does not call for increased density and other such waivers? If the developer needs that type of density to make a profit, they need to adjust their costs elsewhere and not cause Planning Commission or Council to change zoning to fit their needs or should have figured it out prior to purchasing the property. He’s been around the block more than once as well as the rest of the family, let’s not play dumb now.

You state that you got your information from the CP, the person who is to make sure that HIS personal contact info is available to his constituents? That is missing from the paper and not being reported on. He is also to make sure that he council minutes are also on the web site? Yet not one meeting from this year has found it to post for the public record on the web site. Also not reported. So when you tell me that you want to take legal information from a layman and a solicitor that quotes from an outdated repealed law, yes I question the solicitor, I question the CP I also question whether you have enough neutrality to report on such issues!

So I guess the true moral is you can look up a cows butt to check a t-bone or you can just take the butchers word for it. Guess we know where your head is at.

Have a nice day!

and the truth shall set you free said...

Little disappointed Ms. Johns. I am surprised that my replies regarding the PA and the failure of Skippy to report on the real issues were not posted on your site as I attempted to force his hand.

Someone once taught me that the phrase, 'and the truth shall set you free.'

Without forcing the paper to report on the MacPhee document, Wagner’s' phone number on the borough site being operational (whether he lives in the borough) and other issues, we will never learn the truth on how morally corrupt (if not in other ways) the demorats are and how they have ruined my party.

I know you are a bright woman, I hope that the 'award' that you were presented last month will not buy you off next year. You made a mistake two years ago endorsing them and then had them ignore and criticize you. Do not let the flattery blind you .

We need to regain the Democratic Party. Carpetbagger, Messina, Scoda and Wagner have proven they are not the voice of the people or of the party. The people need a voice. There are only a few that have been on council in the last 8 years I trust. You were among the leaders.

We need you!

Karen said...

To Anonymous March 20, 2008 9:51:00 PM EDT, I apologize for not publishing your post(s).

I am not completely familiar with the format on Blogger, and I was unaware that a total 9 comments were not published! I quickly added them.

Seems I have something to fix on this blog, but I haven't found it as yet.

Thank you for your comments and as always, I will remain in service to our community as a public advocate on issues which affect Phoenixville.

Karen said...

I apologize.

There was no indication it was for my eyes only.

If you wish, I can remove it.