A meeting yesterday between the City’s Planning staff and GFPS representatives about the District’s plan to buy the Campfire property located at 1925 2nd Avenue South, demolish the historic building and build a pocket parking lot, produced some disappointing news. It could also be viewed as some good news if you feel the District’s plan to purchase individual single-family properties around Great Falls High School to provide parking for about 100 cars is a bad decision and a poor planning objective.
Here’s the rub. The school district planned to provide 22 parking spaces on the 50’x150’ lot which could only be achieved by using the full width of the lot using the narrowest stall width allowable. Since the property by legal zoning definition is not contiguous to the GFHS property, separated by a public right-of way, 2nd Avenue South, the high school’s PLI (Public Lands and Institutions) zone cannot be extended to the Campfire property without a zone change. Any rezoning of the Campfire property would likely be viewed as illegal “spot zoning” by a court challenge.
The only other method allowing for a parking lot in the R-3 residential zone would be a conditional use permit, but as the title implies, there would be conditions on the development to protect the neighboring single-family property to the west. The condition would be a landscaped buffer between the parking lot and the house next door.
The buffering area would reduce the available parking lot area and thus the number of parking spaces that could be constructed. Since the District’s goal to place 22 spaces using a double-loaded drive lane is at the very minimum, 49’, and considering a 10’ buffer-strip, the total parking would likely be limited to 10 spaces using 10’ wide stalls.
As previously stated, the purchase price paid by the school district is $100,000. The cost to demolish the historic “Hi-School Store” would likely be $50,000, and the cost to construct the landscaped parking lot could be another $50,000. So, $200,000 invested using tax-payer dollars would likely amount to $20,000 per stall. Wow!
“As previously stated, the purchase price paid by the school district is $100,000. The cost to demolish the historic “Hi-School Store” would likely be $50,000, and the cost to construct the landscaped parking lot could be another $50,000. So, $200,000 invested using tax-payer dollars would likely amount to $20,000 per stall. Wow!”
For a moment consider the District’s intent to purchase more single-family properties in the vicinity of Great Falls High. Would some of those properties have homes on both sides requiring two “Buffers” and even produce fewer parking spaces, like maybe a single end to end row of 7 spaces? Using the same math that would be $28,000 per space.
Knowing that the school district educrats are not urban planners, or design professionals, who advised them to pursue the property purchase in an effort to solve the 50-year-old parking problem at Great Falls High School? Was it the District consultants from Billings, Bozeman, Missoula, or Seattle?
Is it time to think parking structure, solve the parking problem and end this foolishness? You tell us and the District, too!