Questions Not Answered – Inconsistency in Granting Waivers of Off Street Parking in Conshohocken

Last week reported on the granting of an off-street parking waiver for a cigar lounge above Tierra Caliente at the corner of West 2nd Avenue and Fayette Street.

Please note, there were two different decisions before Conshohocken’s Borough Council that night. The first involved the off-street parking waiver. The second involved a decision to recommend, not recommend, or to not take a position on a zoning application involving the property directly behind the Tierra Caliente building. The same person who is behind the cigar lounge is also buying the entire building, plus the adjacent property, where a parking lot is proposed.

This article will focus on the waiver of off-street parking.

Late last year, the property at the other end of the 100 block of Fayette, was also involved in a request for a waiver of off-street parking. Nudy’s Cafe had leased the building and the owner came before Borough Council to make the request.

Prior to the request from Nudy’s Cafe, the waivers had been handed out without much question. The buildings in the downtown area of Conshohocken have never had much off-street parking. It wasn’t the fault of anyone, it is just how the town was constructed and still exists to this day. To not grant the waivers, would mean to not allow businesses to open in the main commercial area. There had even been discussions on dropping the requirement for the waivers, because in the end, they had to be approved.

That changed when Nudy’s applied. There were lots of questions and Nudy’s left the initial without the waiver and requests to conduct a parking study and sign agreements with existing lots. We were so stunned at the change we wrote an opinion piece on the issue.

Here is a paragraph on Nudy’s from he minutes of the December 5, 2018 meeting:

Council voiced concerns about the potential impact that Nudy’s could have on parking in the downtown area, especially during the peak morning hours. Council requested that the applicant conduct a parking study, which is permitted by the Borough’s Zoning Ordinance. They also asked that the applicant explore other alternative parking options. The applicant was encouraged to contact owners of surrounding parking garages.

PokeOno, which is opening in the original home of El Limon on Fayette Street, came before Borough Council after Nudy’s and appeared to be pre-prepared to handle similar questions and issues.

Here is a paragraph on PokeOno from the minutes of the March 6, 2019 meeting::

He discussed a plan for employee parking, which included utilizing the Park-and-Ride commuter lot and incorporating parking policies in new hire materials. He confirmed that he would continue to partner with
the Borough on additional parking alternatives.

Based on the prior six to seven months of how requests for waivers of off-street parking were handled, we found the hearing involving the cigar lounge curious. Our impression was that going forward the waiver would be contingent on efforts to lessen a business’ impact on parking. And please note, yes, there is a big parking garage being built with the SORA West redevelopment about two blocks away. That was the also known during Nudy’s and PokeOno’s hearings.

In relation to the off-street parking waiver, the owner of the cigar lounge was not asked to conduct a parking study, secure agreements for other lots, or transport workers from the park and ride. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a plan, his

For example, we have always been curious what the division of parking is for the lot between Flocco’s and the building in question on the corner. We know Flocco’s controls most of it, but there are signs for specific businesses in the corner businesses. Will any of those spaces be dedicated to the cigar lounge? This lot was never actually discussed.

So we asked each member of Borough Council about the inconsistency. Below is our email to them:

Last night’s hearing for the waiver of off-street parking seemed very inconsistent with recent hearings involving this waiver. Nudy’s was asked to secure an agreement for parking spaces (which it did at Saint Mary’s) and conduct a study. Poke Ono agreed to transport its workers from the Park & Ride in West Conshy.

If Cigar Republic does not obtain the variances needed to build the parking lot, it moves forward approved with no parking (due to the vote last night to provide the waiver).

As stated by the applicant, the capacity for the space is 218 (plus six to eight employees). As of now, there is no plan for parking and it is approved to move forward (with or without the parking lot). Yes, he stated the plan wasn’t to have 218 people there at once. But even half is 114 and that is potentially dozens of cars.

Can you provide an explanation as to why this business was not asked to conduct a study, secure agreement(s) for parking spaces elsewhere, and transport employees from an off-site location? Of course, all of this could have been contingent on the outcome of the zoning hearing.

We sent the email on Thursday, June 6th at 6:30 a.m. We have not received a response.