Authority considering parking deal with hotel

Wingate wants parking spaces for employees

The Altoona Water Authority on Thursday tabled a request from the owners of the new Wingate hotel to use authority parking spaces during off-hours.

Board member Marla Marcinko, the city manager, worried that granting permission might create a zoning problem for the hotel, which is across Chestnut Avenue from authority headquarters.

“Yes and no,” said city Community Development Director Lee Slusser after the meeting, in answer to Marcinko’s concern.

Obtaining permission for off-site parking in the central business zone requires a special exception from the Zoning Hearing Board — but that obstacle “is not too much of a hoop,” Slusser said.

Getting permission would require a hearing, but the Zoning Board would need to grant permission if the hotel met all the criteria for an exception.

The board would need to grant the exception if the applicant lacks adequate parking on its principal lot, the off-site parking is centered within 400 feet of the principal lot, the extra parking won’t give the operation more than the maximum number of spaces permitted in the zone and the extra parking wouldn’t debilitate the neighborhood or necessitate demolition of a sound building.

“Just glancing, it looks like they meet the criteria,” Slusser said.

The proposed agreement drafted by authority solicitor Alan Krier would not require the hotel to pay for the use of authority parking, based on the proposition that it’s in the interest of the city for the new hotel to succeed, according to authority General Manager Mark Perry.

But the agreement would allow the authority to revoke the privilege at any time, for any reason, Perry said.

The hotel owners want access to the authority spaces mainly for employees, but also for customers, when necessary, Perry said.

The hotel already has an arrangement that gives it access any time to parking spaces controlled by another nearby institution, Perry said.

If the authority doesn’t make an arrangement that formally gives the hotel access to its parking spaces, hotel patrons are likely to use those authority spaces anyway — as people looking for scarce parking slots tend to gravitate to anything available, Perry said.

Marcinko, who said she wanted to be “as accommodating as possible,” nevertheless wondered along with board Chairman Bill Schirf whether a formal agreement would increase authority liability.

It would probably increase frequency of use by individuals connected with the hotel, but it would decrease authority liability, because under it, the hotel would explicitly assume liability, Krier said.

Without an agreement, the authority could bear some responsibility if a defect in the property caused harm, especially if the authority knew that individuals connected with the hotel were using its parking spaces and did nothing to stop it, Krier said.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.