I’ve read many comments recently on FPF, Facebook and most recently, Kevin Ellis’ column in The Times Argus — that present false choices on the subject of the proposed parking garage.
First, building a parking garage in “The Pit” next to the Pavilion building is not an option. It’s been discussed ad nauseum over the years and repeatedly rejected as not viable. Recent discussions with the state of Vermont — the land owner — would have required the state have 120 “free” spaces in exchange for the land. No developer can build a garage with those fiscal constraints. Contrast that with the current proposal on the table: Capitol Plaza is gifting the land to the city — worth $500,000 and has agreed to pay the city $9 million over 30 years to lease 200 parking spaces, which will leave 160 additional spaces available to the city for public parking and additional leases. This is no “sweetheart deal,” as has been alleged; this is an excellent deal for Montpelier taxpayers.
Second, there are multiple, exciting projects going on downtown, including better access for bikes, more electric vehicle charging stations and more downtown-focused development. The parking garage enables those projects — it doesn’t detract from them. The denser parking will provide better access to downtown businesses and enable creative reuse of current on-street and surface parking for more pedestrian and bike-friendly amenities. A parking garage in the exact spot (behind the Capitol Plaza/church) was identified in the Montpelier Strategic Plan as a critical infrastructure need and the preferred spot downtown.
Third, this project does not “block public access to the river.” There is currently no access to the river. The Taylor Street project is directly on the river — not the hotel and parking garage — and it includes river access and green space that will be welcome benefit for our city. And while some may consider the garage and the hotel “ugly eyesores,” that is entirely subjective. I challenge Montpelier voters to consider what is currently sitting on the land that would be used for the garage and hotel – two asphalt parking lots and a large shed. That land is owned by a local family business — not the city. If voters reject the parking garage, that land won’t magically become green space with river access — it will remain asphalt parking lots. Again, arguments against the project present a choice that doesn’t exist.
The proposal under consideration has broad public benefit; it will advance many community needs, including a new hotel, affordable housing and convenient parking for workers, residents and visitors. Unlike a standard bond, the debt service on the garage bond will be largely covered by the increased new TIF tax revenue generated by the construction of the new hotel (estimated at $146,000 annually). The proposed hotel project adjacent to the garage will generate significant economic activity and vibrancy for Montpelier and add significant new property value to the grand list. It is estimated that the new hotel will attract an additional 30,000 visitors annually to downtown Montpelier, which is why the project is supported by all downtown merchants.
Please reject false choices; please vote yes on Article 1 on Nov. 6.
Heidi Tringe is a Montpelier resident.