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Potsdam planning board considers changes to parking code

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POTSDAM - The village’s Planning board is proposing a change in thePotsdam code that would reduce the number of parking spaces developers have to construct for their business.

The village’s code currently mandates each developer create one parking space for each of their full-time employees, and one space for every 200 square feet of retail space for customers. The planning board is proposing the village change that to one parking space for every 500 square feet of retail space, and one space for every full-time employee.

Frederick Hanss, director of Planning and Development for Potsdam, said the proposal will be passed along to the village clerk and attorney, who will then draft a local law on the proposed changes to the village’s code.

Mr. Hanss pointed out parking is plentiful in the village compared to other upstate New York communities. Thereare approximately five parking spaces for every 1,000 square feet of retail space in the village compared to 2.5 spaces in Ogdensburg and 3.3 in Canton. Other communities, such as Watertown and Lake George, with five and 6.7 parking spaces per 1,000 square feet, respectively, offer more parking than Potsdam. However, Mr. Hanss would like to see Potsdam with closer to two to three spaces per 1,000 square feet of retail space.

“The village’s parking requirements require that a developer create more parking than they need for the project,” Mr. Hanss said. “The board has no discretion.”

Planning board members pointed out an over-abundance of parking spaces at some village retailers, such as the Ames Plaza off Market Street. Mr. Hanss also used Lowe’s as an example, noting that if the planning board had forced that developer to follow the existing parking requirements they would have had more parking spaces than necessary.

But some large department stores developers intentionally create an excessive amount of parking to have additional space to store snow, Mr. Hanss said. “Many of those big-box stores plow snow into their parking lot, (but) that doesn’t allow snow-melt to perculate through the ground.”

Additional parking spaces create more storm-water run-off, as water does not permeate through pavement as it does through soil. This can be problematic for storm-water systems and the local environment and, in some instances, could lead to flooding, Mr. Hanss said.

“You have storm-water that gets flushed into the village’s storm-water system and that’s backed the system up,” he said. “Storm-water run-off that flows into the village’s storm sewers have overflowed beyond what the community can handle.”

Mr. Hanss also pointed out the village’s storm-water system flows into the Racquette River, which could harm the organisms that live in or near the river. Storm-water often picks up a number of contaminants from roofs, roads and parking lots.

“It’s full of contaminants. It’s pretty dirty water,” he said.

Planning board members also broached the possibility of establishing a maximum number of parking spaces for future developers. Some board members feel it’d be unlikely that a developer would provide too little parking for their customers.

“No reputable company is going to short the number of parking spaces they need,” board member Ted Prahl said.

The proposal also includes a requirement that any developer who proposes a lot with more than 20 parking spaces install a bicycle rack that accomodates at least four bikes.

“Bicycling is a very popular form of transportation in Potsdam. Providing some space for them when developing their stores would make sense,” Mr. Hanss said.

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