City Council to talk parking, housing and walking

Feb. 13—Meadville City Council meets tonight and is expected to discuss staff reports on a recent parking town hall, a city housing plan that is in development, and efforts to secure grant funding for creation of an active transportation plan. No votes are scheduled for the meeting.

A town hall held late last month to address city parking issues consisted largely of a lengthy presentation on the recent history of the city's parking-related finances and the limited options available to address parking-related expenses.

The possibility of raising parking meter rates from 25 cents per hour to 50 cents per hour drew concerns from a large crowd of residents and downtown business owners. An alternative option, the creation of a business improvement district containing a to-be-determined number of the city's metered spots, could keep meter rates at 25 cents by essentially imposing higher taxes or fees on property owners in the district.

Neither of the options, according to city officials, would offset the "looming costs" expected to result from either the repair of the Market Square parking garage or the demolition of the garage and replacement with a surface lot.

A grant from the International City-County Management Association allowed the city to begin work last year on a housing action plan led by consultant Wyatt Schroeder of Philadelphia-based Bowling Business Strategies. After compiling data through interviews and surveys with stakeholders and residents, Schroeder and city staff members outlined early progress on the plan in a November subcommittee meeting.

The city's primary goal at that stage, according to the presentation, was to increase the availability of affordable housing by 50 units in redevelopment and deteriorated areas.

Meadville Redevelopment Authority members are also scheduled to discuss a draft of the plan when they meet at 8 a.m. Wednesday in the City Building.

Discussion of the city's efforts to obtain a WalkWorks grant for development of an active transportation plan will follow on a listening session on the topic held Monday evening.

The city's Environmental Advisory Committee last year was awarded pre-planning assistance from the PA Downtown Center's WalkWorks program to support an application for a full grant to fund creation of an active transportation plan.

City Council identified an active transportation plan as one of its priorities to support in 2024. The term "active transportation" refers to walking, biking, and using a wheelchair or other mobility aid to get to everyday destinations.

Council meets at 6 p.m. in the City Building, 894 Diamond Park. Meetings are open to the public with limited seating available. Residents who wish to address council should arrive a few minutes early to enter their names on the public comment sheet.

Mike Crowley can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at mcrowley@meadvilletribune.com.