|The Connecticut Avenue Stop & Shop provides far more parking than will ever be used. It would have been more practical to use that space for another business, creating a bit of the density that pedestrians crave.|
|Washington Street is attractive precisely because it is lined with buildings, not parking lots.|
That parking lots are inhospitable places goes without saying. One parks their car then gets the heck out of there. But in our car-crazy world, parking lots can feel like a necessary evil. After all, most people drive everywhere and those cars need to be stored somewhere, right? What is a lover of pedestrian-friendly streets to do?
The first, obvious step is to make sure that parking lots aren't any bigger than they need to be. Only a few of Norwalk's parking lots are well-used. Most are never anywhere close to full. Surface parking lots cost about $5000 per spot. Why would a developer squander valuable money and land on unused parking spots? Because we require them to.
Planning & Zoning's minimum parking regulations ensure that every development in Norwalk has more-than-ample parking, at the cost of more productive and attractive uses of that space. Consider the ratio of space for business to the space for storing cars.
|Business type||Active sqaure feet per parking spot||space for cars : space for people|
(based on 300 sq ft / parking spot)
|Restaurant||45||6.7 : 1|
|Funeral Home||60||5.0 : 1|
|Take-out restaurant||100||3.0 : 1|
|Retail Stores||200||1.5 : 1|
|Medical Offices||200||1.5 : 1|
|Industry & Manufacturing||300||1.0 : 1|
|Other Offices||334 (370 in development parks)||0.9 (0.8) : 1|
|Retail Furniture Stores||400||0.8 : 1|
In the most extreme example, restaurants are required to set aside nearly 7 times more space for cars than for people. Even the typical retail store must have 1 1/2 times more space for cars than for people.
Why should Norwalk require businesses to be more parking lot than business? We don't want Norwalk to be a city of parking lots. It's time to reevaluate these damaging regulations.
While some businesses will no doubt construct oodles of parking regardless of the regulations, we should leave that up to the business owner. It may be in their interest, but it's certainly not in Norwalk's. There should be no requirement to fill Norwalk with asphalt. And, if doing away with minimum parking requirements is too radical, let's at least start by paring them down.