Saturday, April 19, 2008

LETTER: F & M Student Parking: A Present Problem That is Going to Get Much Worse

F&M's Master Campus Plan 2004, the most recent published Master Plan, gives some idea of the increased parking problems that are being caused by F&M's refusal to accept its responsibility and provide sufficient on-campus student parking. This problem, which will only get worse, is not being addressed at all in the Campus Master Plan.

Instead of increasing the number of parking spaces on the main campus proportionate to its increasing enrollment figures, the number of parking spaces is actually decreasing. The Master Plan 2004 lists the number of existing spaces on the main campus at 370 and planned (future) parking on the main campus at 300 – a reduction of 70 spaces.

Much of the existing parking is reserved for administration, staff and visitors. The present Williamson Field parking lot (entered from Harrisburg Pike) that used to be used by students is now reserved for visitors. The same is true of the parking spaces behind the Marshall & Buchanan dormitories.

At the same time, new dorms are to be constructed. A 150-bed Student Residential with Faculty House is to be constructed where the football stadium is right now. A small parking lot with no more than 50 spaces is shown in the Master Plan architectural drawing.

Another new dorm, already on the drawing boards, is to be built directly north of the Life Sciences Building. This dorm appears on the architectural drawing without any parking spaces being shown. The Apple Infirmary is to be turned into "Student Residential with Faculty House." No parking is shown for this building or for the adjacent Marshall & Buchanan dormitories.

In addition, the Master Plan calls for ALL PARKING SPACES in the rear of the Administration Building and Marshall & Buchanan Halls TO BE REMOVED AND THE AREA RETURNED TO GRASS. These spaces are currently reserved for administrators, staff and visitors.

The total number of combined spaces, representing both the North and (Main) Central Campus, is being reduced.

The Campus Master Plan 2004 lists a total of 1,112 existing spaces on both the North and Main campuses. It lists the planned future parking as a total of 1,200 spaces. Included in this figure are 200 spaces on the Baker Athletic Field.

The plan to use the Baker Field for parking has apparently been canceled in favor of development. This acreage is currently being considered for a high-density alumni housing complex, according to John Fry who made an announcement to this effect at a public meeting last winter. Subtracting the 200 from the total planned spaces in the Master Plan leaves only 1,000 spaces, a figure which includes 700 spaces north of Harrisburg Pike.

Of the 700 spaces north of Harrisburg Pike, 400 of these spaces on the North Campus are for students living in College Row. Many, if not all, of the remaining spaces are reserved for patrons of Iron Hill Brewery and the other businesses occupying the first (ground) floor of College Row.

Subtracting 1,000 from 1,112 shows a reduction of 112 parking spaces from the 2004 figures, while at the same time the College is increasing its current enrollment of 1,980 to 2,180 and adding 20 new faculty over the next two years. And these 1,000 planned future spaces are not just for students; they are also shared by administrators, faculty and employees.

No wonder these students park their cars on city streets. The College has not provided an alternative.

This is why the City Zoning Board should not allow more students to reside in the planned James Street Properties off-campus student houses than the current zoning for these houses allow. These zoning regulations were created for a very good reason: to protect the rights and interests of other homeowners and residents living on those same streets.