ATWOOD KENJURA’S VIEW ON PARKLETS, REASON FOR VOTING NO

  

(Editor's Note: This is an editorial from Brenham City Councilmember and mayoral candidate Atwood Kenjura in response to the Spectator program played on Friday, January 20. This response was aired on Monday, January 23.

I want to thank KWHI and the Spectator for the opportunity to respond to the latest editorial regarding the city council decision and especially my vote on the parklet application that was presented to us last Thursday.  Tom is right in that the council has studied and voted on a manual that allowed parklets to be constructed in downtown Brenham.  The one application that we had to consider met all the guidelines and I for one, who voted on the original manual to be approved, and is in favor of the parklet concept, now and in the future - underestimated the overwhelming opposition to the application that was presented.  I personally received numerous phone calls and texts since the item was posted to our agenda last week.  I was also aware of a petition that was started in opposition to the parklet but felt I needed to have more information so last week, prior to the city council meeting, I proceeded to walk Alamo Street and visit with the various owners of the business establishments along this section of downtown and a few buildings outside this area.  I found that the response was an emphatic no to the application from these businesses downtown.  The testimony that was presented at our meeting for its approval was given primarily by city staff and the Main Street Board members who have spent considerable time on this project.  And for that, I thank them for I too, as earlier stated, am in favor of the parklet concept – but as an elected official, I am obligated by the response of the business owners and taxpayers that expressed their desire for me to vote no on the proposal because of the parking situation that exists currently in downtown.

I stated before my vote on Thursday that we do not per say, have a parking space problem, we have a problem with people parking where they should not  I am referring to both public and private employees and in some cases even the owners of these businesses parking in front of their establishment. The city has three main parking areas open to the public – Commerce St. Lot, Vulcan Street Lot and the lot across from the Kenjura Law Office (formerly the pharmacy) where the synagogue formerly stood and is now a paved city parking lot where not one car is parked.  It is time for both the city, county and business owners to come together and resolve the issue.

16 Comments

  1. I’m skeptical it’s actual businesses.

    Really, there are only two that would be directly affected: Yumm! and (I moved some time ago so I don’t know what it is exactly now): the former Today and Yesterday.
    Yumm! It’d be odd because folks could get to-go annd eat on that parklet if available.
    The old opera house – there’s parking all down the side on two sides.
    The other stores have parking.
    96 West is always busy, and I don’t know now, but had options for meals all day. The parklet was gripped about, but not much after completed.
    If I recall too… they pay more rent due to the parklet too.
    So… is it really parking?

  2. I think you’re a pretty lousy business owner if you prioritize allowing your employees to park in front of your business instead of leaving it open for potential customers. It happens way too often downtown. That is in addition to the multiple reserved spaces around the courthouse. I’m sure local doctors would agree that it doesn’t kill you to walk a little bit.

  3. I’m in agreement re the parking meters. Free parking at the remote lots and a two hour meter on all the spaces that are deemed convienent. By the time an 8 hour employee has to keep up with the ‘meter running out’ 4x a day, problem solved! And I might add; I am disabled and can NEVER shop downtown, and wish I COULD find a spot.

  4. Let me first say that I love that Atwood Kenjura took the time to go out and talk to people and consider their opinion with his vote, more of our elected representatives should do things like this. However, I would disagree that downtown business owners are the only stakeholders in this issue. Downtown belongs to all of Brenham and the council should seek out the opinion of the people in town. I love the idea of this parklet and am a frequent customer of downtown businesses. Yes, parking is sometimes a problem, but not all the time. The reserved spaces around the courthouse are a waste and should not be allowed except for one or two for the sheriff’s office. County officials should not be given reserved spaces, they are elected to SERVE the citizens, not to be given elite VIP privileges. Those spaces around the courthouse could be designed better to hold more cars and should be opened to the public. I am certain that a better design for downtown parking could be found and should be considered and let the county elites park on the remote lots behind the square just like the rest of the county employees have to. The public sniping between the coffee shop and the landlord should stop, it is not a good look for anyone.

    1. There was actually a plan in place to redesign the parking spaces on both the Alamo and Main sides of the courthouse to increase parking. Because the County was working with the State Historical Commission on a grant for the courthouse, they would not allow the changes as “they were not historically accurate”. Perhaps since Washington County did not get that grant, the Judge and County Commissioners will be more amenable to working with the City on improving the parking around the courthouse.

      1. I appreciate the information and the reply. I can honestly say that I have never heard of “historically accurate” parking spaces. I get preserving the courthouse, but the parking needs to keep up with the times. The city and the county really could come up with a better design for the parking and stop this silly argument that seems to be taking so much time and effort.

        1. Agreed. I met with Judge Durrenberger over a year ago about the parking situation. At the time, he said he would give up all of the reserved parking along Main Street if the City would put in 2 handicapped parking spots near the south entrance to the courthouse (now the main entrance). Nothing has happened since then.

  5. Another issue that needs to be addressed is the way people speed through on Alamo Street like its a race track. I think there needs to be a speed limit posted in BIG BOLD LETTERS. People are walking on the sidewalks with children and there are the elderly. Yes you have it posted at the crosswalk to stop for pedestrians but people cross over everywhere. There are some that just don’t have any regard for others, they are in a hurry and don’t want anything in their way to slow them down. All while they race down the street just to be met with a traffic light and have to probably stop anyway. Makes no sense. I have seen some cars fly over the railroad track and look to be almost airborne just to beat the traffic light at Alamo and Austin Streets. There was an incident a few years back with
    young guy running into the Tattoo Parlor and the adjacent building because of speeding and thank God it happened when folks were cruising the streets. People touring Brenham need to be safe to do so along with the people who live in Brenham when they
    come downtown.

  6. Build a parking garage with city/county designated spots inside. Install electric car charging stations inside as well. That takes care of potential parking issues for workers and also addressed the infrastructure issues for electric vehicles because they are coming soon en masse like it or not.

    Close off the majority of downtown streets to vehicular traffic and make them pedestrian only. Turn the streets into the walking paths and the current sidewalks into extensions of each business whom occupies the space. Each business will then in essence have their own “parklet” and that issue is then solved. If a business is in an area that is on the one or two designated drivable downtown roads left over then the business can move to one of the pedestrian designated roads to get their little outdoor space.

    Install electric scooter rental racks randomly around downtown so that people can scoot around while visiting after they us an app to rent the little scooters. The entire downtown area needs a complete landscaping overhaul. Current businesses should be required to maintain storefront appearances beyond just seeing the sidewalk. Sitting areas, well maintained plants, art displays, etc. should all be required to be installed if a business wants a presence downtown.

    Build huge seating areas where people can congregate and eat/drink. Attract food trucks that serve various foods and drinks. Give them a set daily fee that is ordered or pay so that the city gets revenues from them. Have a margarita food truck and i would wager that it would be the most popular one on the entire block.

    I could go on and on with ideas to progressively move things forward in Brenham. If you build these wonderful spaces then businesses will want to employ people in that area. Contact Amazon and talk to them about building a DSP because drone delivery for Amazon packages is quickly coming. That’s just one idea but the list is endless as long as people think outside of the box and quickly make moves.

    If anyone reading this is skeptics about whether or not these ideas I have written above will withstand a proverbial litmus test I urge you as the reader to take some trips to these places. Go visit the White Oak area in the Houston Heights which happens to be one of favorites to visit regularly. Go see the Woodlands Waterway, San Antonio Riverwalk, and City Centre in Houston where Town And Country Mall used to be. These areas are all in large cities but the model can be scaled and it works for tourism based revenue. Heck even drive down Heights Blvd. (Houston) and take note of the sculptures in the median where people walk/jog. People really do enjoy those types of things so why not use those ideas here in town?

    It’s all about new ideas and progression as far as I’m concerned so if a “parklet” is this big of an issue let’s think of a different way to make progress happen instead of even giving one thought it what cannot be accomplished.

    1. I appreciate your brainstorming but some of that is pretty far out there. Brenham is already a working community, not a master planned community. Traffic patterns in and through downtown would change if we made it too difficult to drive there and would put more traffic on more residential streets like Chappell Hill, Academy, and Tom Green. Those streets are already very busy.

      But I like the idea of a municipal parking garage with assigned employee parking. I like having chargers there for highway travelers to be able to stop at. Our downtown as a whole would be easily be the nicest charging destination between Houston and Austin and could be advertised on billboards. Those folks have a lot of disposable income and often have nothing to do at a convenience store while their car takes 30 minutes to an hour to recharge. They could be impulse shopping high-margin items at our stores downtown.

      If it works for the CEFCO in Giddings then it can work really well here.

      But will anybody seriously discuss ideas like these and be willing to back it up with initial public investment? Would they be willing to do a public-private partnership to get it done? Would a private company actually WANT to get into bed with the City of Brenham at this point? Seems like they keep getting sued by the private side of their partnerships. Maybe there is a reason.

      Maybe some day I’ll have a lot of money and can flash it around and assure local politicians that I’m very important and get them to dance to my tune and to flip-flop like a fish on the deck of a boat right before it gets gutted by the sharp knife of an election year. Until then I’ve come to expect that little will change. Just a lot of talk and hand-waving by entitled incumbents. And maybe some more lawsuits.

      1. There actually IS a master plan for Downtown Brenham. It was done in 2012 at a considerable cost, and updated by a group of Main Street volunteers at no cost. Unfortunately, no one with the City pays much attention to it. I am going to make sure each council member has his or her own copy, along with a copy of the update. It might open some of their eyes.

        1. I know about the master plan and that’s what worries me is that they’ll “take immediate action” by hiring another consultant to update the vision in order to make it seem like they’re doing something and engaging with stakeholders. Then do nothing.

          That is exactly an example of what I meant by “talk and hand-waving”.

          They do the same thing about affordable workforce housing. Everybody loves it until a private developer wants to actually do something and then a thousand selfish and softly bigoted reasons meekishly emerge why it just can’t seem to be done this time. Or any time.

          1. I could not have said it better myself! This is the New Age politics of “talking heads” who in fact accomplish nothing. Perhaps those businesses in downtown should “read the tea leaves” and move to the shopping centers now. Progress may be slow but it is not “motionless”.

  7. Downtown will die and businesses will move to new developments off of 290. We can thank the city council for this.

  8. Growing up, I remember the old parking meters downtown and the lady that would go around and mark your tires. Funny, we never had trouble finding a parking space downtown then! Would eliminating two parking spaces hurt the parking that bad? Does the sheriff’s department really need all of the spaces around the court house? How many parking spaces were lost by putting in the pocket parks at each corner where now sits a bench?
    As stated by What’s Up, why was none of this “investigating” going on last year? I see no reason why two parking spaces cannot be turned into a nice space to sit downtown. Why can’t businesses downtown offer to use the space for advertisements-perhaps donate a bench or a table with their business info on it. Use it to their advantage. The businesses need to work together downtown and quit bickering about what the other does or doesn’t do.

  9. I, like many others, have a very obvious question to ask. Why was a parklet ever allowed in the first place in front of Ninety Six West restaurant and Bar, one that can only be used by their customers, while the one for Mescolito can be used by all?? Is this fair especially after you had the coffee shop owner jump through hoops to do what you required? I am thinking all the current city council members were on the job last year? Why did they then not voice opposition or find out how shop owners
    felt last year?? Isn’t it a little late to go around
    getting shop owners opinions at this late a date? Seriously! And why has the opinion of how to take care of the parking problem by enforcing city employees and shop owners to park in the city lots not enforced long before now, as I know this has been discussed before but nothing was done about those who did not comply. Now you talk about enforcing it!! I would be very angry if I were the Mescolito owners. You are renigging! That is hypocritical! Why do so many shop owners not support this? I find this hard to believe. If you got the downtown employees to follow your suggestion of parking elsewhere, there would be a surplus of parking spots and shop owners would not have an argument. Common sense which seems to be lacking here. Take care of the current problem, free up parking spaces, then revote and do the right thing here. We owe the Mescolito owners this in the very least. It will be a great place for all to sit and enjoy downtown.

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