The proposal would eliminate exemptions for businesses with less than 10,000 square feet to improve parking in Victorian Square.
“Most commercial uses under 10,000 square feet are allowed to operate without providing any parking,” senior planner Victor Villarreal said of the city’s current parking code.
With many issues still to be resolved, the council sent the proposal back to the city’s Planning Department for more work.
In summer 2006, the council asked city staff to look into changing the code to lessen the impact of the parking supply and demand imbalance in Parking District No. 1, which encompasses Victorian Avenue.
Villareal said the city continues to see more and more developments within the boundaries of Victorian Square versus the availability of space in surface lots.
Essentially, this code change could have an adverse affect on property owners of smaller buildings zoned for commercial use in the area. Sparks Councilman John Mayer said changing the bill would be a severe disadvantage and potentially force businesses to relocate to another building after the exemptions are eliminated.
“This is going to hinder development,” Mayer said. “Why would (a property owner) want to trade his parking exemption for a piece of property where he’s not going to get the exemption?
“If I were (a property owner),” Mayer continued, “and you were going to tell me, ‘You could switch for this property here, but you won’t get the 10,000-square-foot exemption,’ then I’d say, ‘Well, I’ll stay where I am’ and this defeats your whole purpose.
“I don’t understand,” Mayer said. “To me, you’re taking away a real property right away from them, and they’ve got a right to a 10,000-square-foot exemption, and now if they trade, they won’t have that right.”
City Manager Shaun Carey noted that the exemption “doesn’t necessarily lead to favorable development.”
“Parking is such a critical key to a successful project,” Carey said. “Parcels along the plaza area allows the assembling of various needs for phases one, two and three (of the District 1 redevelopment project).”
According to the current wording of Sparks Municipal Code Section 20.49.020 regarding commercial use, general retail businesses must have one parking space per 250 square feet of net leasable floor area. For casinos and gaming facilities, one space is required for every 100 square feet of gaming floor, in addition to spaces for hotel rooms, retail and restaurant space within the casino.
Businesses with less than 10,000 square feet of leasable space are not required to provide parking.
This is particularly problematic with the area’s special events that take place on Victorian Square.
“We actually hear a lot from residents when it comes to events,” Villarreal said. “Our initial step is to help minimize that problem. We’re asking for new construction (within the district) to provide parking.”
Armando Ornelas, redevelopment manager, said the current code requires the Sparks Redevelopment Agency to assume the costs for parking for new projects built in the city.
“If someone chooses to develop the building, in effect the agency, to make downtown function properly from a market standpoint, has to absorb the responsibility of the cost of ultimately providing parking,” Ornelas said. “If you approve this change of code, then that issue will have to be addressed as part of the redevelopment agreement.”
The proposal also eliminates the code’s current 50-percent reduction for hotels. Section 20.49.020 states hotels must provide one parking space per room if less than 50 rooms, .8 per room if there are more than 50 rooms, plus parking for restaurants, bars, meeting rooms and other associated uses.
The item was reverted back to the Sparks Planning Commission for action so that all property owners within the proposed boundaries of parking district 1 (Victorian Square) could be notified of the exemptions. Villareal said all owners within the existing boundaries were noticed.
The proposal brought to the council Tuesday includes changes to the boundary of Parking District No. 1 remove a discontiguous property originally added at the request of the owner in 1998. The property owner had hoped to develop and use the exemptions for a theater. Although the request was processed, no plans have come forward to the staff for review.