Metro wants to attract more affordable developments by getting rid of parking requirements

WSMV's Tosin Fakile discusses a new proposed ordinance for parking spaces in Nashville.
Published: Sep. 13, 2022 at 6:43 PM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - A proposed ordinance would allow developers to decide how much parking space a project would need instead of Metro Codes requiring a set number of spaces.

Officials said the goal is to attract more development to the Urban Zoning Overlay in the city.

The Five Points area is considered part of the Urban Zoning Overlay and Councilman Brett Withers of District 6, which includes Five Points, said if they can remove the requirement of parking spaces and help reduce that cost for developers, the end goal is making certain areas more attractive for affordable housing and development.

“What we’re hearing increasingly, especially with housing, is that Metro requiring more parking spaces than they need, and especially if you’re doing structured parking,” Withers said.

Stephen Larios, owner of Asphalt Beach Skate Shop, said he recently added parking spaces to his business that sits in the Five Points area.

“I was told originally we needed 11 parking spots,” Larios said.

The business owner is familiar with the Metro Codes requirement for parking spaces according to a business’ square footage. The proposed ordinance to move that power of parking space requirements from Metro to developers and business owners, he said there should be some requirements depending on what the business is and how big it is.

“I think that the code requirements may be a little outdated and maybe they should have some flexibility, but I’m not sure they should be eliminated,” Larios said. “Having a business, you need to have a place for your customers and if they allow developers to come and build everything to the sidewalks and have no parking available, then they’re going to come to a place like mine and have parking.”

Withers is one of the city leaders who is proposing to allow businesses, especially housing developers, to build as much parking as they need.

“Those spaces can cost maybe $30,000 or more per space to build and if they are building them and not ever going to use them, then that’s adding to the cost of making housing more unaffordable,” Withers said. “If we can reduce it back to having them figure out based on their models how many spaces they think they need, they’re welcome to build that, but we shouldn’t be requiring them to build more than what will be needed.”

“If they can have flexibility in the codes, if it’s something for affordable housing, then they should cut those guys some slack,” Larios said.

Withers spoke to WSMV4 near a pay to park parking lot in the Five Points area.

“This is a really good example. Right here in the Five Points area, we have lots of surface parking,” Withers said. “If a restaurant wants to expand or add a dining room, we shouldn’t be requiring them to build more parking.”

Withers said requiring more parking for areas in Five Points with plenty of parking doesn’t add to the city’s bottom line.

“When you have large parking lots, even like this one, that are mostly empty, it’s use of public space that’s not really generating as much property tax for the community as it could,” Withers said.

He said Metro Codes is on board with the change.

“It’s just very complicated math in our zoning code, and even the codes department says it’s not serving either the codes department of the public to have it be that complicated,” Withers said.

WSMV4 asked Withers about possible concern of those who may think this will mean fewer parking spaces.

“There’s some truth to that,” Withers said. “What that environment starts to look like is our shopping malls that are not doing well. Even here you have parking lots that have been around for 30 years.”

The proposed ordinance has had the introductory first reading before Metro Council. Withers said the next step is for the ordinance to go to the planning commission and it should come back before the Council in November.