The Johnston Town Council unanimously approved an ordinance amendment eliminating off-street parking caps for businesses during its monthly meeting on Monday night at the Johnston Municipal Court.
Mayor Joseph Polisena, who proposed the change, was present to argue in favor of the amendment. He said the measure is designed to help storefronts provide more space for patrons.
“This will help businesses. It’s a very pro-business, extremely pro-business change,” he told the council. “This would help that business, but it will also help other businesses, and it would basically reduce some of the restrictions that we required a few years back when it comes to parking. It gives them more parking spaces for their customers and clients. It’s very important.”
Polisena noted one potential business that is looking to come to town, a hospital rehabilitation center that would cost upwards of $30 million and provide nearly 200 jobs in the medical field.
District 5 Councilman Robert Civetti said that the change would effectively eliminate any sort of cap on maximum amount of parking spaces.
“Yes, absolutely,” Polisena said. “We had a cap on it, and as I said, I’m not big on greenery and stuff. I’d rather see customers in there, spending money.”
Polisena dove deeper into his recommendation to the council in an interview with the Sun Rise shortly after the meeting adjourned. He remained tight-lipped regarding names, but said there are several “major businesses” looking to break ground in town. He said the amendment was “very necessary.”
“This would obviously help all of the businesses that want to come in. So it’s a very positive thing,” the mayor said. “It’s a very good piece of economic development. We don’t want to restrict people from having parking spaces. We felt it was best to remove it so we could encourage several businesses to come in. And there are a couple that want to come in that are very, very, very positive to the town, and … quite frankly, positive to the state.”
Polisena also reiterated his point that greenery surrounding a business doesn’t generate revenue the same way more parking does.
“I’d rather see more parking, because business is great now, but if we hit a downturn in our economic times, businesses are going to struggle,” he said. “You want to make sure their customers are not inconvenienced and they can go to their facilities, park and they have enough parking.”
Civetti said he has seen instances of facilities not having enough parking, and Polisena said he was looking to nip that problem in the bud.
“The classic example is across the street, with the restaurants now,” Polisena said. “This would take out the cap and allow more parking areas for different businesses that come into the town.”
There was a slight amendment made to the motion, as Polisena conferred with solicitor Dylan Conley and attorney Nick Hemond. The ordinance would have slated just the B-1 zone for cap elimination, but the Planning Board’s advisory opinion advocated for removing the limit for both the B-1 and B-2 zones.
“There appears to be a typographical error, so if we could add B-2 to that through an amendment through this council, that would go an awfully long way,” Polisena said. “I think it’s just in the language.”
Polisena confirmed that the amendment would cover the entire town, and that if there needs to be another change made for a separate zone he would ask the council to do so.
“We want to make sure these businesses invest their money in our town,” he said. “We want to make sure they’ve got the customers and the customers can park and obviously solicit those businesses. So this is a very, very good thing. I’m limited [as] to what I can say, and I don't mean to play coy with you, but this is a good thing. This is a very, very good thing.”