PARKING | Before Butler grows, officials will answer to neighborhood

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Faculty, staff and students who shelled out $60 this year for a parking permit might have purchased them directly from Butler University, but the university isn’t the only stakeholder in the parking situation.

Butler’s hardly parking-friendly campus is nestled in the Butler-Tarkington neighborhood, and a 1989 legal commitment with the Butler-Tarkington Neighborhood Association requires not only that the university enforce permit rules against parking on its streets but also to hold the university responsible for providing adequate parking for those who need it.

It also gives BTNA the right to put the kibosh on any of the university’s future building plans.

Police Chief Ben Hunter said the university could get some resistance from BTNA or the city about starting to build the next project if the university does not have a more comprehensive parking plan.
The campus Master Plan calls for the university to develop both structured and additional surface parking in two areas to make up for displaced parking that is lost as current surface lots eventually are developed for other uses, but these solutions are listed as mid-term or long-term projects.

“We’ve made it clear to the university, before anything major happens, we’d like to see some sort of look about whether the number of student vehicles can be limited,” Neil Bloede, president of BTNA, said.

Butler’s lawyers acknowledged BTNA’s concern about the future of on-campus parking and agreed in a Dec. 28, 1989, letter to BTNA’s attorney that it would “continue to provide parking within its borders sufficient to accommodate vehicles operated by all faculty, staff and students.”

The university needs the support of BTNA, since it has the ability to remonstrate against any new building or structure.

BTNA recently approved building the Howard L. Schrott Center for the Performing and Visual Arts because of the university’s good-faith effort and excellent relationship with it, Hunter said, but parking was a factor in the decision-making.

“The very tough question and first question they asked was about parking,” Hunter said, adding that the university’s parking capacity will increase by about 20 new spots when the center is built.

Bloede said the university and BTNA have had a good relationship as of late regarding parking issues but that he is mindful of concerns in the future.

“I don’t think we are currently at a crisis point with a respect to the neighborhood,” Bloede said, “but anytime they come to us with a project, we ask about parking.”

Hunter said he would imagine that the university would move to create a parking facility as outlined in the Master Plan if the number of students at Butler grows.

“Going forward, if you take and wipe out a parking lot, we’re going to have to have an answer about where we’re placing that capacity,” he said. “The need for parking is going to increase as the university grows.”

President Jim Danko said he had a “high-level” discussion with Hunter and interim vice president for operations Gerald Carlson last week about parking capacity.

Hunter said his chief concern about parking is making sure BUPD enforces against faculty, staff and students who park on the neighborhood’s streets in front of homes of residents who are concerned about their property values.

Bloede said the 1989 commitment created a covenant between BTNA and the university with respect to how the two entities handle certain issues but that it recognizes the university’s authority to deal with problems so long as neighborhood residents are not adversely affected.

Bloede said it is a major concern for Butler-Tarkington residents when students who live in rentals eat up parking capacity on neighborhood streets.

“What’s important is the long-term health of the university when it comes to parking,” Hunter said. “Anytime you have growth at the university, one of the last things we want to do is encroach in the neighborhood that is the very thing that supports us.”

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