The need for parking in Waunakee’s historic Main Street district has been discussed for several years, and creating more parking areas along with wayfinding signs to existing public parking areas has been one recommendation.

A recent study, however, found the Main Street’s commercial area currently has a greater supply than demand of parking. That conclusion seems to be supported by a survey in which all respondents said they could find parking with a five-minute walk to their destination.

Yet many respondents showed concern for the impact on parking from new developments within the high demand area, in particular, the Lamphouse Apartments.

The analysis done by the village of the five new downtown developments notes that the Lamphouse mixed-use building includes 101 units of bedrooms and 12,022 gross square feet for commercial use. It includes 59 private parking spaces but is working with the village to construct an off-site lot with an additional 64 spaces to be shared with the library. The site redevelopment also includes 20 newly constructed spaces on Cross Street.

According to the parking study, the project is estimated to need 184 spaces by the current standards, larger than the supply. Among the conclusions and future considerations in the study is the observation that “ample on-street parking within walking distance could be utilized to meet parking demand.”

This would be true in an urban area where motorists feel little compunction as they hold up traffic to parallel park on streets, but as of yet, this area is far less urbanized than cities like Chicago and New York. More than likely, many area residents are used to driving forward into a parking space within a lot rather than backing in between two parked cars. If they see a Main Street spot where parallel parking is necessary, they may likely pass it by.

The big concern for residents on adjoining streets such as Bacon (where parking is allowed on only one side along one block), Madison, South and Fish, is that visitors downtown will seek the easiest place to park and do so there. It sounds like no big deal, but car doors slamming and electronic locks create noise, as do chatty patrons departing Main Street restaurants and bars.

Meanwhile, the village has proposed relaxing its parking standards in the district, saying they exceed recommendations for new developments today. According to a document presented to the plan commission, today’s parking standards are meant to provide enough parking spots while avoiding “inefficient land use, unattractive site design and additional stormwater runoff.”

Updating those standards is always a good idea, but perhaps doing so prior to the completion and occupancy of the Lamphouse Apartments might be unwise. Once the project is completed, village officials can see the actual impact on parking, rather than the projections. More restaurants and coffee shops in that building may create a larger demand on parking than anticipated.

Village staffers are seeking public participation on the parking standards and ordinance changes, and those public comments will be important. Only 160 people participated in the online survey cited in the study, a tiny percentage of village residents.

Business owners, too, need to participate in the process, as parking is key to their business models.

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