Lowell City Council Meeting: October 3, 2017

Responses to Motions

Hamilton Canal District RFP for a new Master Developer. No one responded to the last RFP for the Hamilton Canal District. There are some companies interested in particular parcels in the district, but no one has come forward as a Master Developer. The city will continue seeking one. Councilor Belanger asks why, when it seems like the city is making good progress doing it in-house. The city manager says he thinks a master developer is needed for the parcels along Dutton Street. But as a practical matter, some of those parcels will be used temporarily for surface parking and construction staging for other projects that are being done. Regarding the land swap, Manager Murphy says it is going very well, there is just a process that has to be followed. He says it will not hold up the construction of the garage.

Finance Subcommittee Report

Subcommittee meeting earlier tonight. Many residents and business owners spoke against the proposed increase. Subcommittee chair Elliott explains that parking is an “enterprise fund” because the fees associated with parking pay for cost of operation and construction of parking garages; that other city funds are not spent on parking. The subcommittee moved to refer this proposal back to the city manager for further and evaluation and analysis. Councilor Elliott also asks that the council be provided with information about the agreements for parking with UMass Lowell and Middlesex Community College. Councilor Belanger says part of the problem is that the city hasn’t raised rates in a very long time. He also urges the city manager to look to raise revenue from violations and additional parking kiosks. Councilor Samaras says he was at the last downtown neighborhood association meeting where people were concerned that there had been no increases for years then suddenly the full amount is made up all at once. They would prefer a gradual increase over time. Councilor Leary says the various discounts we give to garage users like Lowell High students and MCC students is a problem. Councilor Mercier says it’s a good thing that the city needs more parking garages because it’s a sign that things are going well. But on the other hand, there needs to be fairness in how things are to be paid for. The full council refers the matter back to the city manager.

Motions

  1. Mercier – Req. City Mgr. address numerous concerns associated with the Road Runner service provided to Lowell residents.
  2. Mercier – Req. City Mgr. have proper department replace handicap parking sign at 198 South Street with a “10 Minute Handicap Drop-Off” sign and move the existing handicap sign to next spot behind it.
  3. Mercier – Req. City Mgr. provide a status and update regarding the property located at 318 Andover Street.
  4. Mercier – Req. City Mgr. provide a time line as to steps involved in the resolution process to remove buses and out-house from Crawford, Avon and Fourth Avenue area.
  5. Milinazzo – Req. City Mgr./City Solicitor review and prepare a report and recommendation regarding the proposed Memorandum of Understanding between the Boston Surface Railroad Company, Inc. and the cities of Lowell, Woonsocket, RI, Nashua, NH, and Worcester, MA.
  6. Rourke – Req. City Mgr. locate a drop off site in the City for the support of the Puerto Rico Supply Drive.
  7. Samaras – Req. City Mgr. have DPD create a study on how to restructure Middlesex Street, between Central Street and the Lord Overpass. He specifically sites the number of people loitering and sleeping in doorways, especially during the day. He says there is much development going on in that area. There are also many fine nonprofits and many needy people. He says we cannot eliminate this, but the city needs a strategy that takes care of the neediest but also supports businesses.
  8. Samaras – Req. City Mgr. have DPD develop a report regarding the availability of parking between UMass-Lowell and the Smith Baker Center. His intent is to find parking for a renovated Smith Baker Center and also to assist the Lowell Housing Authority. Would like to assist the people living in that neighborhood.
  9. Samaras – Req. City Mgr. have LPD research the costs of purchasing new speed radar display signs for the City.
  10. Leahy – Req. City Mgr. have proper department review congested traffic at intersection (lights) at Aiken Avenue and Lakeview Avenue, and report on possible solution.
  11. Belanger – Req. City Mgr. provide an update regarding JJ Boomers’ site for development in Pawtucketville.

At 8:41 pm, Council goes into Executive Session to discuss litigation.

One Response to Lowell City Council Meeting: October 3, 2017

  1. Brian says:

    I knew there’d be backlash for the proposed parking fee increases but from what little I saw it was impressive. Minimum parking requirements and long-term sweetheart deals we give to big companies and institutions were mentioned.

    A consequence is it attracts people with a proclivity to drive and uses up a ton of spots very quickly. We then feel as if we have no choice but to build more garages. Small business owners and visitors then have to bear the brunt of price increases. One business owner threatened to leave the city if rates go up.

    What the rate changes lacked is market based pricing to make it more palatable. The city could offer monthly garage spaces at a lower rate in the garages with more vacancies. We could lower on-street rates where demand is low. We could offer free short-term parking in the garages. At the same time rates NEED to go up in many cases.

    We also need to eliminate parking requirements downtown so driving a car isn’t baked into every decision we make. Multimodal transportation will only take off when storing cars becomes less important than quality of life. A paralegal working downtown should be able to live close enough to work that taking a bus, riding a bike, or walking is the logical choice in getting to work.

    Protected bike lanes and dedicated bus lanes where buses don’t have to wait in traffic can be built for a lot less than new garages. If done right car congestion will go down. People will still drive but not as many as now.

    But it’s election season so nothing will happen soon but something to think about.

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