Raleigh Report

Raleigh may cut hotel parking requirements in half

The city is one step closer to making hotel development easier by reducing parking requirements, and it may do the same for other types of project.

The Raleigh City Council on Tuesday asked Raleigh’s Planning Commission to review a staff proposal to reduce downtown hotel parking requirements from one space per room to one space for every two rooms.

The commission, comprised of Raleigh residents appointed by council members to offer advice on growth and development issues, is likely to consider the change later this month. It would then make a recommendation to the council. The council isn’t likely to vote on proposed changes until next month.

The city’s proposal comes after a hospitality consultant in October predicted that the convention center would struggle and Raleigh would have trouble recruiting big businesses downtown if the city doesn’t add large hotels.

The consultant suggested loosening the city’s required parking space-to-hotel room ratio. And council members then instructed staff to craft a proposal that would make development easier without causing transportation issues.

Since then, The News & Observer announced plans to sell its property on South McDowell Street to a hotel developer. But details about the size of the hotel have been unavailable.

On Tuesday, council members seemed supportive of proposed parking changes that could lure more hotels.

“Obviously we want to put as few spaces down there as possible so we can spend more on other things,” Councilman Russ Stephenson said.

Staff members crafted recommendation after comparing Raleigh to similarly-sized cities, as well as others in North Carolina.

Councilwoman Mary-Ann Baldwin asked the staff and the Planning Commission to consider lowering the ratio even more. Baldwin said she aimed to encourage other modes of transit.

“Some cities don’t have any parking requirements,” she said. “I’m not saying we go to zero, but is there a number in between that might make more sense.”

Councilman Bonner Gaylord suggested the city consider reducing its parking requirements across the board. Developers of buildings that are between 10,000 and 50,000 square feet tend to have the most trouble complying with city rules, he said.

“The private market will take care of parking if we let them do it,” Gaylord said after the council’s meeting.

And the timing is right to encourage other modes of transportation, he said. Wake County is expected to ask voters to approve a bond referendum this fall to fund a transit plan that expands bus systems and builds the framework for a regional commuter rail line.

Gaylord suggested that the planning commission review parking requirements for other development types too. Others, however, sought to review other parking requirements separately.

“I am of the belief that we roll slow,” Councilwoman Kay Crowder said. “To give it all out at the very beginning without trying it first seems a bit risky to me."

Hotel parking requirements should be considered separately from requirements for other types of projects, such as offices, because the developments cater to different demographics, Mayor Nancy McFarlane said.

Hotel customers often check in without cars, while other developments typically draw locals who need to drive to the location, she said

“I think the hotels are a little different animal,” McFarlane said.

The council opted to separate parking requirement reviews. The planning commission will move forward with its review of hotel parking, exclusively, while city staff will investigate the potential effects of reducing requirements for other types of development.

Paul A. Specht: 919-829-4870, @AndySpecht