Kent urged to buy downtown parking lot

By Diane Smith Record-Courier staff writer Published:

Council's finance committee gave tentative approval to the purchase of a parking lot from Huntington National Bank, First Federal Savings and Loan and Home Savings and Loan for public parking Wednesday. The matter is expected to go to council for a final vote in October.

The banks recently approached Interim City Manager William Lillich offering to sell the lot off Columbus Street, adjacent to North Depeyster and North Water streets, for about $41,000, the amount the three banks recently invested in maintenance upgrades.

The lot, commonly known as the "First Federal lot," is now available only to the customers of the three banks. If the city owned the lot, it would help meet a need for downtown parking which was listed as a high priority during recent meetings sponsored by the city's economic development department, Lillich said.

An appraisal done in 1996 values the property at about $350,000.

In addition to the cost of the lot, the city would also inherit a $52,000 assessment for the proposed upgrade of a downtown alley. Earlier this year, property owners petitioned the city for an upgrade of the alley, agreeing to assess themselves for the upgrades.

If the city buys the lot, it could become the owner of the largest parcel on the alley, Lillich acknowledged. Since the city has already agreed to pay $29,000 for utility upgrades in the alley, the city would bear $81,000 of the estimated $269,000 alley upgrade, he said.

Mayor Jerry Fiala questioned the purchase, saying "the same people would use the lot as are using it now," but Lillich pointed out that if the city owned it, it could place time limits on those who park in the lot and ticket violators.

Ed Bargerstock, a downtown business owner, encouraged council to buy the lot, calling it "the single most important downtown development tool," but urged council to repeal the resolution of necessity authorizing the alley improvements.

Council members said the alley improvement issue could be addressed at a later date.

In other business, the committee gave preliminary approval to a lease with George Sacco, who has proposed turning the city's former maintenance garage into a pottery school. Council's land use committee also gave preliminary approval to change the zoning of the land from open space conservation to industrial.

If given final approval by council in October, the measures will pave the way for Sacco to open his pottery school by the end of the year.

The lease calls for Sacco to pay $1,000 per month in rent, giving Sacco credit toward his rent for improvements like electrical upgrades, external painting, architect fees and other repairs to bring the structure up to code.

The city will also upgrade the roof at a cost of $23,250. Of that, Sacco will be responsible for about $14,000 to pay for the portion of the roof which covers the part of the building he would lease.

"I'm very happy," Sacco said. "I really love that building. It has a lot of uncluttered space and high ceilings. It's perfect for a ceramics studio. The location is great."

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