Developer calls Curtis Road parking rule risky
The city’s Plan Commission listened to a surprisingly divided debate on Wednesday evening while it was trying to decide how to orient on-street angled parking spaces in the Wellness at Prairie Village subdivision, which is getting ready to break ground near the Curtis Road interchange. For reference, that is the subdivision designed to house the new Christie Clinic campus in southwest Champaign.
Apparently, back-in parking spaces (like a regular angled space, but it’s angled in such a way that you drive past it and back up into it) are starting to become popular in other cities for the supposed safety benefits they provide to drivers and bicyclists. For a more complete explanation, see this report, which has details and photos of what the spaces look like.
City staff were recommending that the zoning ordinance automatically require this kind of parking space in certain areas in Curtis Road interchange developments. Eventually, the commission would vote 6-1 on a weaker version: that the zoning ordinance require the spaces, but allow waivers in certain circumstances.
So here’s how we got there:
Land Development Manager Lorrie Pearson said the back-in spaces give drivers a better view of what’s coming at them when the drivers are pulling back into traffic.
And Rick Langlois, chairman of Champaign County Bikes, said the spaces are a savior for bicyclists.
“When a vehicle backs out blind, a bicyclist is at great risk,” he told the commission.
It’s a “relatively minor issue,” according to Planning Director Bruce Knight, but it still sparked some opposition from the subdivision’s developer, Todd Raufeisen.
“We’re not the least bit interested in it, to be honest,” Raufeisen said.
“It’s money,” the developer said later in the meeting. The problem is that to accommodate a vehicle backing into a space as opposed to pulling in forward, the space needs to be wider, Raufeisen said — maybe opening it from about nine feet to about 10 feet. That means 10 percent fewer parking spaces in some areas, which lowers density, which raises the developer’s cost-per-square-foot to build.
Those numbers are estimates really, because Raufeisen acknowledged that he — and most developers — don’t even know how to design those spaces. And he’s not willing to take that risk in today’s market.
So is it a deal breaker?
“I don’t know,” Raufeisen said, but he’s not comfortable with what the city has asked.
Mayor Jerry Schweighart weighed in on the debate: he said just give the developer a waiver.
“The agreement over whether we’re going to back in or pull in, I certainly hope that’s not going to kill this project,” Schweighart said.
The proposal next goes to Schweighart and the city council. If a back-in parking space requirement were to pass, it's likely Raufeisen would ask for a waiver, which would also need city council approval.
Just curious: Have you ever seen or used a back-in angled parking space? What did you think?