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McHenry mayor, business owners to talk downtown parking

McHENRY – McHenry Mayor Wayne Jett will meet with downtown business owners to address what some call a parking problem in the area.

The City Council recently hosted a discussion on parking in McHenry’s downtown area, and several business owners have said a lack of parking has led to a downturn in business. City officials said the problem might lie more in inconvenience and a lack of awareness of existing city lots.

Mike Dumelle, who operates Buddyz, a pizzeria on Green Street, said the problem has gotten so bad he is considering relocating. He said dining revenues are flat, while delivery service is thriving.

“Parking is one of our top complaints,” he said. “When it is bad outside, we are basically dead. … It’s a primary business decision on whether I stay or go.”

The city of McHenry has a total of 639 public parking spots scattered throughout its downtown areas – 250 spots in public parking lots and 389 street parking spots – according to city documents.

Council members had a similar discussion on the matter in April after approving plans for the new theater and D.C. Cobbs restaurant on Green Street. Many are concerned the attraction will draw more people to the downtown and create more parking problems.

The downtown theater is set to open in November, and a second D.C. Cobbs location will follow. Future developments also might cramp parking. Second Ward Alderman Andrew Glab said he wanted to be better prepared for the future and create a long-term plan for the downtown.

“We need to come up with a vision before we discuss parking as a whole,” he said. “If you take a look at those city parking lots, it’s a tough settle because they are kind of hidden in the back. Maybe we need to look at designing it better. … Make it a more comfortable atmosphere.”

The city’s public works department has made an effort since that discussion to better mark city lots so people know they won’t get ticketed, said Doug Martin, director of economic development.

“I think there is more we can do,” he said. “I think the safety issue is a factor for some people. Parking on Riverside Drive – there are 28 spots, but not a lot of lighting.”

Perception about safety might be compounded with patrons’ lack of willingness to walk several blocks to their location, 3rd Ward Alderman Jeffrey Schaefer said.

Schaefer said that he had done a lot of “personal investigation” on the matter of parking, and went downtown recently on a weekend night to see the problem in action.

“The whole area was very busy. It was excellent, actually,” he said. “And there was plenty of parking available. It didn’t seem like any establishments had people who couldn’t find parking, because you couldn’t find a table.”

A valet or shuttle service, paid for by downtown businesses as a collective, might alleviate the problem. It’s an option the mayor wants to explore. He said he wanted to meet with business owners before any decisions were made or studies were started.

“I would like to see that before we send staff in circles when we already know where the issues lie,” he said.

The City Council likely will revisit the topic at its 7 p.m. Nov. 6 meeting, after discussions with business owners take place over the next two weeks. McHenry City Council meets at the city municipal center, 333 S. Green St.

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