Delaware City Council has unanimously approved plans for the new Delaware County Courthouse, but parking arrangements have not been resolved.
At issue is whether the public will be able to use any of the 170 new parking spaces that are part of the courthouse, and whether the city should give up seven parking spaces in front of the courthouse along Sandusky Street. County facilities director Jon Melvin cited security reasons for both parking restrictions, prompting an outcry from some members of council on Monday.
“They’re building this monumental parking lot that no one else can use, and then they’re going to take away six or seven spots on Sandusky Street?” said council member and Mayor Carolyn Kay Riggle on Monday. “I’m not thrilled with it at all. You should be sharing with us.”
“The requested elimination of the existing on-street parking (approximately 150 feet north of the parking deck curb cut on North Sandusky Street) in front of the proposed county courthouse to create an approximate 40-foot clear zone of defensible space to ensure compliance with federal judicial safety regulations shall be determined by City Council after the parking and safety committee hears the case and makes a recommendation,” states one of the conditions of the city staff’s report to council.
The report said the courthouse’s first- (77-space) and second-level (58-space) garages would be used by county, judicial and law enforcement staff, as well as for prisoner transport. A 35-space parking deck accessible from North Sandusky Street would be for jurors. Each parking area would be gated and unconnected to the others.
“The biggest issue is court security,” Melvin said. “We are open to the idea of making that Sandusky Street parking lot available, but again, this is a courthouse, and it’s unfortunate that in this modern age we have to worry about that.”
Melvin said some of the employees now parking at the Delaware County Services Building (the Hayes Building) would be able to use the courthouse garages, opening up more public parking at the Hayes lots.
“Parking and safety is going to want to know some numbers,” said parking and safety committee chair and council member Kent Shafer.
Delaware County commissioners are proposing a five-story, 92,145-square-foot building, which includes two levels of garages, a parking deck and three levels of offices. Since 2012, the county has received approvals from city commissions for the design and development plan, as well as demolishing the Leffler house and the former Elks building.
Council approved three ordinances, involving rezoning, the final development plan and abandoning a right of way on Monday. A public hearing was held, but no member of the public spoke about the courthouse.
Noting there were no complaints from the public, outgoing council member Andrew Brush praised the county and the architects for the courthouse’s design.
The rezoning changes two of the four parcels just south of the Hayes Building from one-family residential district to central business district. The abandoning involves Marshall Court and southeastern portion of the site, on about two acres at 110 N. Sandusky St.
Brush made a motion to vote on the ordinances to move the project along, with the understanding that the parking issues would be taken up separately.
“This has been a long time coming,” Brush said of the courthouse. However, he said, “this parking situation has to be resolved.”
Council’s approval allows for the demolition of the Elks building and Leffler garage later this fall, and construction on the courthouse could begin in spring 2016.
The parking and safety committee is expected to meet at 7 p.m. Nov. 16, Shafer said.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.