For the second time, a request to reduce parking at the new Kent courthouse was approved by the Kent Board of Zoning Appeals Monday.
The zoning board voted unanimously to approve a variance that allows the project to move ahead with 109 parking spaces — 34 fewer than the 144 required by city code for that size a project.
Architect Allan Renzi of Richard L. Bowen & Associates in Cleveland, the firm designing the building for Portage County, said the variance request stemmed from a recommendation by the Kent Architecture Review to move the building further back from East Main Street so it was more in line with its neighbors, the and salon buildings.
"In doing so, because the site is so limited in size, we lost a row of parking," he said.
Renzi said the city code calculates parking requirements in part based on total square footage of a building, but a large portion of the new courthouse will be ancillary space that's not occupied by employees or visitors.
Using Renzi's figures, zoning board member Steve Balazs calculated that the building may only have a max occupancy of 106 people at one time with 60 seats in the main courtroom, 20 seats in the magistrate's courtroom and 26 employees.
"If everybody drove a car, you still would be under," Balazs said. "You’ve got a parking deck that’s adjacent to this as well.”
The zoning board voted earlier this summer to grant a variance request that reduced parking by 12 spaces.
Bridget Susel, Kent's grants administrator, said city staff were comfortable with the 109 parking spaces.
"The administration has been working with the county commissioners and judges for a long time, and one of the issues had been parking," Susel said. "Even though it is being moved down to 109 the administration recognizes the reasons behind it. It’s still going to bring 109 spaces to the downtown area when the court is not in session. One hundred and nine spaces is still a substantial amount of spots downtown."
The project still has to go to the Kent Planning Commission tonight for site plan approval. The Kent Architecture Review Board voted Aug. 7 to issue a certificate of appropriateness and recommended the planning commission approve the site plan.
Zoning board member Paul Sellman said it's unlikely the court would ever experience an overflow situation with parking.
"If you have a few, you still have other parking nearby," he said.