May/June 2021 Newsletter
Updated: Apr 22
It's been a long summer. I hope you and yours are staying safe.
I love the new activity that is brought to our old village by the Savage Craft Brewery and D's Wings in the River District.
These new businesses can bring major positives for you, as a part of West Columbia, in ways that go above and beyond making a few business owners profit.
Food and beverage serving establishments like D's and Savage Craft produce revenue for West Columbia called "Hospitality Taxes." Hospitality Taxes create a fund that gives us the necessary funds to make important quality of life improvements for people who live in West Columbia, like green space, without increasing the tax burden on residents.
In fact, Hospitality Taxes are one of the only ways SC Law allows a city to raise money from people who live outside it.
It is in our residents' best interest to encourage the growth of commerce in the Meeting Street District for this reason, because it builds up a new way for the city to improve our neighborhoods, many of which are neglected.
With new businesses that arrive, there can be a lot of added activity that was not there before.
Many bystanders see cars piled up everywhere and people walking in the roadway and mistakenly think the issue must be due to a lack of parking places. It's quite common that I hear a desire for the city to provide more Off-Street parking. (The main source of funding for this type of thing would be to deplete your Hospitality Tax fund with this kind of spending so it can't be spent on beautification throughout our neighborhoods.)
Parking is an important issue, and I have learned some basics about parking I would like to share here, in hopes that public education will move this conversation forward.
There are actually 2 basic types of parking: Off-Street and Street. There are advantages and disadvantages to both.
Off-Street parking is the easiest for the city to do, in fact, ease is the main advantage to Off-Street Parking (this is the throwing lots of money at the problem approach). Since DOT administers most WECO streets, Added Off-Street parking means no one has to undertake the task of navigating DOT bureaucracy.
The main disadvantages of Off-Street parking is it is VERY EXPENSIVE and uses TWICE AS MUCH SPACE IN YOUR MOST VALUABLE AREAS.
By expensive, I mean Off-Street parking can literally cost 10x more money than On-Street parking (Remember your hospitality fund). That's not a typo. Off-Street Parking requires the city to first buy a valuable piece of property, clear it, and then build the same infrastructure that is needed for a 20 story building. It's very expensive.
By twice as much space, dedicated Off-Street spots, require a new 2-way road has to be built that only serves parking spots and turnarounds have to be added. Off-Street parking could be easier to get people to agree to in the planning stages because it LOOKS like it only disturbs a tiny area when aerial views of preliminary plans are presented. I disagree. Off-Street parking that takes twice as much space is going to be twice as impactful in the real world.
Off-Street Parking also does not require anything to change on a roadway.
Street parking has advantages of its own that are less well understood.
Street Parking provides the best parking places for buildings facing sidewalks- right by front doors (this is very convenient during off peak hours). Due to the low expense, a Street parking solution can also use the same budget to add sidewalk, landscaping and pedestrian crossings to streets, when and where they are missing. In other words, Street Parking can use your parking budget to make a block a more pleasant and orderly place to pass through.
All of our roads in this area are historic, they all are different widths. Depending on the street width, a Street Parking solution may be in the form of parallel or pull in, one side or both sides.
Street Parking is also very efficient with space. People frequently do not realize how much capacity is added by simply making improvements to the rights of way so that Street parking zones are added. If this was added to the first and second block of Center Street outside Savage Craft Brewery, *on one side of the street,* it would easily double the available public parking within a block of D's/Savage while also creating a sidewalk connection to State Street that previously did not exist.
Street Parking also has a speed calming effect, because drivers are more cautious around car doors that may open.
Another important thing to understand with parking is that it's a big problem, that's actually a bunch of small problems. An issue YOU experience as a visitor, may be different from a property owner, which may be different from another property owner a block over. That's why both Off-Street and Street Parking have proper functions in the best solution.
Currently, in the River District, our parking issues are generally NOT caused by a lack of spaces to store parked cars in West Columbia.
Most people who have voiced issues with our newfound bustle either:
Don't like where they see people parking (blocking intersections/driveways/parking on other people's property).
Don't like where they see people walking from parked cars. (In the street, across other people's property).
These problems are from disorder and poor connections! West Columbia could build a parking deck to the Moon tomorrow and still have issues with connections that make up the majority of complaints.
The vast majority of City led investments for parking in the last few years have been for off-street parking.
Today, West Columbia has a LOT of Off-Street parking. In fact, if you look at a satellite view of Meeting Street, you'll see many places with more surface area devoted to Off-Street Parking than to actual buildings.
The most cost effective, long term option at this time is to use our scarce budget for street parking and roadway improvements. Wherever this is done, we add sidewalk connections to buildings and pedestrian crossings wherever they are missing. This would also add clear NO PARKING zones near intersections and driveways.
This is the only way I see us being able to fund better connections throughout our Meeting Street District.
As our level of business activity grows, it then becomes more justified to fund more expensive Off-Street parking structures to handle excess capacity, and when its built it will have better connections.
We should also look for other sources of financing for these off-street parking structures, which keeps our hospitality fund in good shape for things we want to see in our neighborhoods.
We have to be strategic to move forward. Know that I'm in there fighting every day to move our community forward.
Enjoy the rest of your summer, and if you need me please do not hesitate to reach out!
David Benjamin Moye
Councilman, West Columbia District #8