Council pulls parking lot proposal
- Published: May 30, 2019
Beatty Hughes Park will not soon be the site of a municipal parking lot.
A proposal to turn over the downtown park to parking was tabled at Council’s May 20 meeting after public opposition.
Council member Marianne MacQueen requested the proposal be pulled at the meeting’s outset, saying that the proposal was “premature” and that a “robust community process” to talk about parking concerns was needed.
“I think it would be good to take a step back,” MacQueen said.
Council was set to consider the proposal from Village Manager Patti Bates that the Village use a county grant to engineer a parking lot at Beatty Hughes, a 1.1-acre Village park between Kieth’s Alley and Corry Street, also known as the Little Park.
Bates wrote in the proposal that to deal with “lack of parking in an around downtown, staff recommends proceeding with engineering to convert Beatty Hughes Park to a parking area.” She estimated that 72 spaces and a public restroom facility could be created there.
“The space is within easy walking distance of downtown businesses and could be used by residents and visitors, alike,” Bates wrote.
While the proposal was indefinitely tabled, a discussion on the proposal slated for the “old business” part of the agenda took place nevertheless. Fifteen villagers spoke from the floor on both local parking issues and Beatty Hughes Park.
Most who spoke expressed their affection for the park and urged the Village to not turn it into a parking lot, citing concerns such as the loss of greenspace and trees, stormwater impacts on the nearby Glen, the lack of a parking problem and the embrace of tourism at the expense of local quality of life. Park neighbors, downtown residents, downtown employees and other villagers spoke in favor of keeping the land a park.
Bette Kelley, who lives adjacent to the park, said a parking lot would mean more traffic, noise pollution and light pollution for the purpose of promoting tourism.
“When is the quality of life for the homeowners and residents more important than tourists?” she asked.
Downtown resident Sharri Phillips said the park is her “personal oasis” and that she sees it being well used by villagers.
“I would be personally heartbroken if it went away,” Phllips said.
Another neighbor, John Day, agreed that the park is regularly used. He said providing more parking for tourists might actually attract more tourists, making the problem worse. And he suggested and that amenities could be added to enhance the park.
“Make it a gem for our town rather than consider wiping it out so we can consider more parking,” Day said.
Anna Bellisari of the Yellow Springs Tree Committee emphasized the benefits of the park’s trees in keeping the village cool, reducing air pollution and capturing rainwater runoff.
“It would be a terrific change to the whole ecology of that part of town,” Bellisari said. “I’m disappointed and dismayed we would consider that.”
Bethany Gray, a board member of the Glen Helen Association, expressed her concerns about runoff from a concrete parking lot so close to the nature preserve.
Matthew Kirk suggested adding more parking might just attract more tourists and lead to more congestion. Tina Bujenovic argued that greenspace is what attracts tourists in the first place. Sam Jacobs said that Beatty Hughes park has “some of the most beautiful trees I’ve seen in parks anywhere.” And Adam Zaremsky, who frequently takes his lunch to the park, cited research that contact with nature reduces stress levels at work.
Karen Wintrow, Chamber of Commerce director, encouraged Council to study the issue more fully and to focus on maximizing existing parking first.
“I think there are a lot of places parking could be increased,” she said. She also urged Council not to take the Beatty Hughes proposal “off the table completely.”
After the discussion, Council President Brian Housh said he did not know that the park was considered “sacred space,” or so well used and that Council wasn’t planning to move ahead without consulting citizens first.
“I’m sorry that people were shocked and appalled. This was meant to be a discussion,” Housh said. “I think I heard consensus that we are taking Beatty Hughes Park off the table in terms of parking.”
The parcels that became Beatty Hughes Park were purchased by the Village in 1968 and 1969, using a grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, according to Bates’ proposal. While the grant initially placed restrictions on the use of the land, a memo from HUD in 1984 lifted them, Bates noted. The park has been eyed for parking several times in recent history, including most recently in 2004.
Beatty Hughes gets its name from two village leaders from the 1950s and ’60s: William Beatty, a long-serving Council member whose family owned the property that became the park, and Leo Hughes, a former Village mayor whose family went on to donate the park’s water fountain in his memory.
Council will continue to discuss the parking issue at a later meeting, and may consider a parking study to determine the scope of the problem.
Comments from Council members on the issue and other items from Council’s May 20 agenda will be in next week’s News.