ALLENTOWN – The possible future construction of a parking lot off Main Street, between Waker Avenue and Lakeview Drive, remains a topic of discussion without a resolution for members of the Allentown Borough Council.
The development of the parking lot was once again a topic of discussion when the governing body met in Borough Hall on Feb. 13.
Council members said about $200,000 has already been spent to advance the project, including the cost of acquiring the land, permits and easements. Officials said the purpose of the project is to create additional parking in Allentown’s downtown district.
Mayor Greg Westfall said borough officials purchased the property four years ago. He said an easement would permit individuals to walk directly from the parking lot to Main Street.
“I would like to see this project move forward,” Westfall said. “We have owned that property for four years. Our ad hoc traffic committee surveyed business owners and most said they are in need of additional parking. The ad hoc committee recommended developing the Waker Avenue parking lot.”
Councilman Robert Strovinsky said plans for the parking lot between Waker Avenue and Longview Drive would include about 25 spaces and two spaces for individuals who have a handicap.
An initial plan for the new parking lot called for a blacktop base and extensive landscaping, with a cost estimated of more than $400,000. Strovinsky said revising the plan to include a gravel base and less landscaping would reduce the cost to the low $300,000’s.
Officials said there is money left in a bond issue to cover expenses relating to the project.
During the discussion, Borough Attorney Greg Cannon suggested that officials have to find a way to “leverage the (parking) asset.”
“No one builds that type of parking lot without finding a revenue source,” Cannon said. “You have to leverage that lot by turning over spaces.”
Councilman Rob Schmitt said, “Going back to before I ever ran for office, I have consistently said there were three key elements to economic growth and sustainability in Allentown: foot traffic, parking and the marketing of Allentown as a desirable destination.
“All three are interdependent on each other. People won’t come here to shop and eat if they don’t know about us. They won’t stay if there isn’t convenient, well marked, well lit parking that is visible from the main downtown business district.
“As a taxpayer and a councilman responsible for how and where we spend our residents’ extremely limited hard-earned tax-dollars, I am not in favor of throwing good money after bad into the bottomless money pit of the so-called Waker Avenue ‘lot’ until such time as I see signed agreements with the surrounding businesses and residences that will be directly impacted, formal cost analyses that detail exactly how ingress and egress to the lot will be achieved, and a real count of how many spaces will be actually added for all of this cost, engineering and legal wrangling.
“My answer to those who are in favor of throwing more money into the decades old concept is … show me the parking spots that will actually be available to residents and visitors, show me the plan and how it dovetails with our master plan, show me this very nearly inaccessible area will be easy to get into and out of for cars and trucks of any size, show me this stagnant proposal is somehow worth the many additional thousands of dollars it will cost the people of my town to transform it from a liability to a shining asset, show me that we, as a governing body, have considered and actually taken advantage of the low-hanging fruit, like providing better signs and more consistent maintenance of the existing lots, organizing all available on-street parking, and pursuing already available agreements with existing lot owners who have signaled they would love to work with the town to offer additional parking.
“If the folks who favor developing the Waker Avenue ‘lot’ can clearly meet these most basic indicators of return on investment, rest assured I will be the project’s most vocal and most ardent supporter and champion,” Schmitt said.
No decision as to the next step in the possible development of the Waker Avenue parking lot was made by council members on Feb. 13.
In other action, the governing body:
• Presented volunteer awards to Allentown First Aid Squad Capt. Mike Conroy and to Hope Fire Company member Steve Mikulas. Mikulas has been a member of the fire company for more than 60 years.
• Acknowledged receipt of a Monmouth County Board of Freeholders resolution appointing Betty Elder to the advisory council to the Monmouth County Office on Aging. Elder’s husband, Councilman John Elder, abstained on that action.
• Accepted Felicia Giliberti’s resignation from and appointed Mathew Walsh to the Economic Development Commission;
• Accepted Cheryl Johnston-Willois’ resignation from the position of Allentown’s emergency management coordinator;
• Appointed Bill Cotte to the Environmental Commission;
• Reset Kathy Fidler’s and Lisa Strovinsky’s appointments on the Shade Tree Commission and appointed Taylor J. Sapudar to the Shade Tree Commission;
• Accepted Meredith Wayton’s resignation from the Historic Preservation Review Commission and reset Robert Mayer’s appointed to the Historic Preservation Review Commission. Schmitt voted no on this action;
• Authorized the hiring of Christopher Poss as a full-time patrolman in the Allentown Police Department.