By Margie Plunkett
Delray Beach commissioners revived the discussion of downtown restaurant parking, voting 3-2 to reconsider whether to remove incentives once designed to attract restaurants. The ordinance will be heard on first reading Sept. 6.
Early in August, the panel had voted down the measure, noting that more information was needed before making the change — which would entail doubling the required parking for restaurants downtown on Atlantic Avenue. The move also boosts costs for new establishments: If they can’t supply the required parking, they must pay fees as required by the in-lieu parking program.
Commissioner Tom Carney asked that the issue be revisited, saying that he felt it had to be addressed sooner rather than later. “Taking it off the table without a full discussion, I think is a mistake,” he said at an Aug. 16 meeting. The measure, which if approved, would not be retroactive and would affect only applications filed after 5 p.m. Sept. 6, the date of the first reading of the ordinance.
The second reading is scheduled for Sept. 20.
Also voting for reconsideration of withdrawing the parking incentives for these restaurants were Commissioners Angelita Grey and Jay Alperin, who was appointed in August to fill the seat vacated by Fred Fetzer.
All the necessary information was not discussed when the last ordinance came up, said Alperin, adding, “I happened to have been here in ’93 when we did all this (granted parking incentives).” The new commissioner said he had spoken to staff about getting a lot of the facts he had not heard during the previous discussion.
Mayor Woodie McDuffie and Commissioner Adam Frankel opposed reconsideration.
While the discussion was of removing incentives for restaurants, the city doesn’t know what kind of retail it wants to attract, the mayor said, adding the entire issue should be left for exploration by a new economic development director when that person is hired.
The ordinance that commissioners voted down in August would have affected restaurants on Atlantic Avenue from Swinton to Northeast and Southeast Fifth, bringing parking requirements in line with regulations throughout the city.
While the city once worked to lure restaurants to this section, it is now saturated with the establishments, city staff contended. When it ended the incentives, the city also intended to follow up with incentives for retail retention and expansion.
Eateries smaller than 6,000 square feet would have been required to have 12 parking spaces per 1,000 square feet — up from six previously — under the rejected ordinance. Restaurants larger than 6,000 square feet would have been required to have 15 parking spaces per 1,000 square feet.
Costs would have risen for restaurants that couldn’t furnish the required parking and would pay for in-lieu parking — which costs $15,600 per space on Atlantic west of the Intracoastal, $18,200 per space east of the Intracoastal; $7,800 for areas including within the Pineapple Grove Main Street area and $4,000 in the West Atlantic Neighborhood.