MATTHEWS – Downtown parking was a top topic on the first day the Matthews Board of Commissioners planning conference Feb. 22 and 23 at town hall.
The conference covered a wide range of topics, including crafting a Comprehensive Capital Improvement Plan that would identify project priorities. The plan will act as a road map to determine which projects fit into the town’s goals and desires.
Mayor Paul Bailey and the six town commissioners were asked to rank 34 potential projects heading into the conference.
A parking lot with 50 spaces next to the U.S. Post Office along Charles Street was the top-ranked project. One commissioner ranked it as the top priority. Five of the seven board members had the project in their top five. The project is estimated to cost $480,000.
A 250-space parking deck in the downtown area would cost approximately $4 million plus the cost of land acquisition. It ranked seventh after one commissioner labeled it as the top project and four commissioners had it in their top five. Two other commissioners had it ranked in the bottom 10, while Mayor Paul Bailey put it last at No. 34.
Bailey asked the other board members why the project ranked so high.
“As long as I have been a commissioner for 12 years, every citizen and survey we take states that we have a parking problem,” Commissioner Jeff Miller said. “We need to show the citizens that we listened to them and we are reacting.”
Commissioner John Higdon ranked a potential parking deck as his top priority.
“Our biggest opportunity to bring an economic driver to the town is to have a large structure that people can park in,” Higdon said. “We should do this. A parking deck would be a huge boon if people knew they could come here and find a place to park. I think it would help us all the way around. I would love for us to initiate some action to build a parking deck.”
Commissioner Chris Melton said he ranked the parking lot at No. 2 and a potential parking deck at No. 29.
“We own the land where the parking lot would be,” Melton said. “We don’t own land – we don’t have $4 million (for a parking deck).”
Higdon responded by saying a parking deck could be financed over 20 years to make it affordable.
“It’s going to cost $6 million if we wait five years to build it,” Higdon said. “It will cost $8 million if we wait 10 years to build it.”
Commissioners also discussed possible partnerships with potential developers that would provide public parking in vertical buildings.
“There are definitely some creative options in all of this,” Commissioner John Urban said.