WILLIAMSBURG — A portion of public parking in downtown Williamsburg currently available to anyone will soon be privatized as apartment parking through a lease between the city and the University of the Cumberlands.
The possibility of leasing the lot to the university was discussed at length Monday evening during the Williamsburg City Council’s regular monthly meeting, where Mayor Roddy Harrison presented board members with the proposal. Currently, UC is in the process of renovating property in the downtown area that will, once opened, house apartments on the upper level and retail businesses in the lower level. The lease will provide guaranteed spaces for residents of the building to park.
The location of the lot highlighted in the agreement runs along Sycamore Street next to Community Trust Bank. That lot is broken up into several sections by parking dividers. UC will be leased just one portion of that lot, which will be the one closest to Sycamore Street.
The city will receive no formal compensation through the agreement, however, Harrison said that he believes that it will be “mutually beneficial” for both parties involved.
“We’re going to get some tax banks off of them for the retail stores and occupational tax and municipal insurance tax,” said Harrison. “I felt like what they’re doing with the downtown with the stores and the agreement that the downstairs will be taxable, we will receive compensation for that.”
In addition, the parking lot will still remain city property and will not be responsible for any kind of upkeep or insurance of the property. If the university chooses to make any kind of improvements or upgrades, they also remain the property of the city, per the agreement.
If — for some reason — UC decides to sell the building where the apartments are located during the life of the lease or if the upper level stops being used for apartments, the parking lot will revert back to the city, according to the agreement.
The lease will be for an initial period of 25 years and can be renegotiated after that time.
Before board members could vote on whether to approve the lease agreement, they first had to accept a deed to the lot from the Williamsburg Housing Authority, who were the listed owners of the property. According to Harrison, the Cumberland Ave. apartments were believed to have originally been planned to be built in the area where the lot sits, but that was before the city’s flood wall was built, placing the location in the city’s floodplain. The planned location of the apartments was later moved, though the housing authority retained ownership of the property.
The board unanimously approved both items.
Harrison said after the meeting that he expects the university may close the lot and gate it for the purposes of private parking.
In other city council business:
—The council was expected to make a decision during their meeting Monday concerning an amendment to the city’s smoking ordinance to include the use of electronic smoking devices — or e-cigarettes. The issue was originally discussed at the council’s May meeting, where officials with the Whitley County Health Department provided information concerning ESDs and the health risks associated with their use.
It was set to be addressed at the council’s June meeting, but was pushed off to August after Harrison said that more time was needed to collect further information. Harrison repeated that sentiment during Monday’s meeting, saying that the city is “still looking into stuff,” noting that the issue has proved to be more complex than expected.
The issue will now be addressed at the council’s September meeting.
If the amendment were to be passed as discussed at the council’s May meeting, e-cigarettes would be prohibited in the same locations that traditional cigarettes currently are. According to the language in the existing ordinance, which was passed in 2013, e-cigarettes would then be banned in “all enclosed areas within all enclosed buildings open to the public and within places of employment,” including bars, hotels and restrooms. The amendment would also prohibit the use of e-cigarettes in any recreational facilities where children are at play, meaning they could not be used in public parks within the city.
—Harrison informed council members that The Bourbon Barn, located at the Davenport Retail Center located off KY-92, is currently expected to open on Labor Day. The business has been in the works for quite some time, with two previously-projected opening dates — September 2018 and February — already being missed.
According to Harrison, the new business has been hamstrung by a variety of setbacks, including problems with distributors and sales.
—A phase program for pothole repair was also announced Monday. Harrison said the city has identified approximately 35 to 40 problem areas throughout the city that are being targeted for maintenance.
Phase one is expected to begin this week, which will include 12 repairs. Once those are finished, work will move on to phase two. If funds allow, work will then continue into phase three.
Harrison added that he turned over four potential projects to FEMA for funds to repair Briar Creek Bridge, 1st Street Bridge, Incline Drive and Woodlawn Creek. Two spots on Mt. Morgan Rd. Those projects have been approved.
A fifth project for several areas of Mt. Morgan have since been turned in and are waiting for approval.