During their special meeting on Feb. 10, City Council continued discussion about proposed changes to citywide parking standards.
The proposed amendment focuses on decreasing parking requirements by 30-50% for most uses. According to the city planning division, these reductions were spurred by national trends, observations, and public comments. They also note that parking is a major factor in how cities are laid out, and determines how much land is available for commercial or residential activity.
In the cover sheet for the proposed amendments, city planners note that the updates will encourage more sustainable land use practices, remove parking burdens from developers, prepare the city’s Unified Development Code for the onset of autonomous vehicles and public transit, and clarify confusion around parking requirements.
City planners stressed that parking is expensive for development. A typical surface parking stall (one parking space) costs between $5,000 to $10,000 to construct. A parking space in a garage can cost $25,000 to $50,000 per space.
The City of Laramie has been working with a group called Community Builders in order to address the affordable housing issues in Laramie. One of Community Builder’s major findings in Laramie’s zoning code is the problem of high parking and low buildings. In their report, Community Builders wrote that the combination of high parking requirements and low maximum building height requirements limit the size of building to only very small apartment buildings. This forces construction costs and rents to be too high for more local residents to afford.
Another key finding in the downtown area is that residential parking restrictions have driven up prices. The more parking required per unit, the fewer units a developer can build. This requires developers to charge more for rent to make up the difference. In summary, parking space competes with leasable space.
“One of the biggest barriers to affordable housing is parking requirements,” said Derek Teini, planning manager for the City of Laramie. Parking code is one way to help the economic development of Laramie. Teini stressed that parking reform is not the singular magic bullet to solving Laramie’s housing issues, but it is one aspect of addressing the city’s economic development goals.
“The main theme of these changes is economic development and better land development,” said Matthew Cox, planner for the City of Laramie. Clustering buildings closer together makes for more efficient land usage.
“The residential component of this parking standard is only one part of this discussion. Commercial development is a major aspect,” said Teini, adding that the city may see more developers able to provide different types and more housing if the changes are adopted.
CONCERNS FROM CITY COUNCIL
There were concerns expressed by several city council members throughout the discussion.
“If we reduce parking for multifamily units, I’m concerned about the pressure it will put on residential neighborhoods, especially in Ward 2, where the University of Wyoming is located,” said Councilmember Sharon Cumbie (Ward 2). Adding to her concerns is the inclement weather of Laramie during winter months. She said that people are more likely to drive and parking during winter months, and the city currently lacks adequate public transportation as an alternative.
“I’m opposed to the ordinance all around,” said Councilmember Erin O’Doherty (Ward 3). She said that most of the complaints that she receives from the public are about parking issues and traffic concerns.
Ward 1 representative Jessica Stalder noted that she liked the idea of applying these changes to commercial development, but has many concerns about the residential applications.
“If housing is what’s dragging this discussion down, we can consider it in a couple of months,” said Teini, adding that they can focus more on commercial applications at the current moment.
According to Community Builder’s study, Laramie’s housing cost is at an all-time high, and has become a huge barrier to retain or attract young professionals.
The Laramie Chamber Business Alliance has written a letter of support for the propose changes to parking requirements. In addition, retail consultants, The Retail Coach, has also voiced support for the proposed changes.
FURTHER DISCUSSION IS SCHEDULED
The second reading for parking amendments to Original Ordinance No. 2021, sections of Title 15.14.040 of Laramie Municipal Code will be conducted at the City Council regular meeting on Tuesday, Feb.16.
The Feb. 16 regular meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. Public comment is limited to three minutes per speaker. Written public comment should be submitted to the City Clerk at firstname.lastname@example.org, or submitted to City Council at email@example.com. To request to make public comment during speaking time, submit requests to the City Clerk at firstname.lastname@example.org by 3 p.m. on the day the meeting will occur.
Council Chambers seating is unavailable at this time. The public can participate via Zoom Webinar (meeting ID: 883 2385 4759, password: 724190). Live feed of the meeting will also be cast via YouTube at www.youtube.com/cityoflaramie/live, or Cable Channel 191.