Kathy Torkelson doesn't want to be labeled anti-business.

The longtime Salt Lake City resident likes having Eggs in the City, Emigration Market and other local businesses near 1700 East and 1300 South as her neighbors.

"They are a nice addition to the neighborhood," Torkelson told the City Council on Tuesday night. "They're attractive and convenient."

The problem, she said, is the spill-over parking the businesses create along streets throughout the neighborhood — and in front of her home.

Now, as the City Council considers relaxing parking requirements for businesses in neighborhood commercial zones, Torkelson fears the parking problem soon will get worse.

"They already park in front of our driveways," she said in an interview with the Deseret News. "We can't get out of our driveways."

Torkelson and a handful of her neighbors addressed the council during a public hearing, requesting that residents' opinions be taken into account before the parking-stall requirement for businesses is altered.

The City Council is considering a change to parking requirements that would reward businesses for providing and maintaining pedestrian-friendly amenities such as bicycle racks, baby-stroller parking areas and park benches.

The proposal would allow up to 5,000 square feet of a business to be exempt from city parking requirements. For many neighborhood businesses, a 5,000-square-foot exemption would eliminate the parking requirement.

"We're trying to encourage neighborhoods to walk to facilities," said Frank Gray, the city's director of community and economic development.

Residents are worried about the impact such changes would have on their neighborhood.

"I'd like to know when the City Council is going to defend us as residents," John Michie said.

Like Torkelson, Michie said he supports local businesses, "but not when they continue to encroach on residents because of where we live."

Council chairwoman Jill Remington Love said she has received several complaints about the on-street parking problem from residents — some whose driveways have been blocked and others who've been unable to put out their garbage and recycling cans because parked cars are in the way.

Love said she believes the city can find a solution over the next few weeks, and it may be as simple as painting curbs and enforcing them as no-parking zones. The City Council expects to vote on the parking ordinance at its July 22 meeting.

Betsy Burton, owner of the King's English bookstore at 1511 S. 1500 East, said she believes providing exemptions to businesses for encouraging foot traffic is a "creative way" to address the parking problem.

Burton said she's experienced some tension over parking between neighbors and business owners over the past 30 years.

"Historically, the neighbors have been listened to and businesses haven't," she said. "Now I feel like both sides are being listened to, and that makes me very happy."

In addition to the proposed exemptions for pedestrian-friendly improvements, the council is considering an overall reduction in parking requirements for businesses in neighborhood commercial zones. The council is proposing a blanket standard of two parking stalls per 1,000 square feet for all businesses in neighborhood commercial zones.

Options for shared parking among businesses and the use of off-site parking to meet requirements also are being considered.


E-mail: jpage@desnews.com