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Relaxed parking requirements proposed in Ashwaubenon

By Kevin Boneske
Staff Writer

ASHWAUBENON – Minimum off-street parking requirements for restaurants, taverns, supper clubs, cocktail lounges and nightclubs would be more relaxed under a recommendation backed earlier this month by the village’s Site Plan Review Committee and Plan Commission.

Community Development Director Aaron Schuette said Ashwaubenon’s code currently requires those businesses to have at least one off-street parking space for every two people, based on maximum capacity, plus one space for every employee.

Schuette said this has led to large off-street parking lots seldom filled for village restaurants.

“The current off-street parking requirement has also had the unintended consequence of precluding business from expanding, in order to maintain the high number of off-street parking spaces,” he said.

Schuette said the requirement has become problematic with an increased interest in outdoor patio dining due to the COVID-19 pandemic because restaurants are unable to add patios.

“What’s holding two restaurants back, specifically, is they are capped out at their off-street parking minimums,” he said. “They asked me to take a look – they said, ‘Where is Ashwaubenon in terms of parking standards with other municipalities?’ Because they would really like to, and quite honestly, need to add an outdoor dining option for their patrons.”

Schuette said based on the research he did related to restaurants in Green Bay, De Pere, Appleton, Wausau and Oshkosh, it showed Ashwaubenon requires “quite a bit more off-street parking than other municipalities of similar size and entertainment options that we have.”

“Previously, we had relaxed off-street parking requirements within the Village Center and Sports & Entertainment district,” he said.

The village eliminated minimum parking standards in the Village Center and Sports & Entertainment districts, Schuette said, but businesses in those areas must provide a plan to specify how they will handle parking.

Schuette said the proposed option – which would change the requirements to one parking space for every three people at maximum interior seating capacity, plus one space per 500 square feet of exterior seating area – “seems to be a nice middle ground, in terms of the requirements that other communities have and what we currently have.”

He said a 6,100-square-foot restaurant with a customer area of 4,000 square feet having a 100-person seating capacity with 10 employees is currently required to have 60 off-street parking spaces, compared to 20 in Green Bay, 49 in De Pere, 34 in Appleton, 21 in Oshkosh and 20 in Wausau.

Schuette said the amendment to the village code would lower the number of required spaces to 34.

“This will decrease the land necessary for off-street parking for these uses, which may then be used for higher-value improvements, such as building expansions or outdoor dining patios,” he said.

Schuette said additional proposed revisions include permitting the use of formal parking agreements among adjacent properties to meet off-street parking requirements and allowing for the counting of legal, on-street parking within 50 feet of the property boundaries to go toward the off-street parking minimums.

Trustee Gary Paul said he initially wasn’t in favor of reducing the amount of required off-street parking, but after looking at other municipalities, “I think we fall in line to say that we can do it here and be comfortable with it.”

When Site Plan Review Committee members discussed the possibility of designating certain on-street parking spaces for rideshare use, Schuette suggested handling that as a separate issue for future consideration.

“I do have a number of restaurants who are waiting on this (off-street parking revision), because they want to get their patios in yet this fall, so that they’re ready next spring,” he said.

Schuette said the proposed changes to off-street parking will be considered by the village board for final approval at its Aug. 24 meeting, when a public hearing will be held.

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