SHEPHERDSTOWN – Plans to ease the town’s parking woes with a parking garage at Shepherd University are hitting some roadblocks.
University officials say funding limitations and debates about location have put the brakes on any immediate solution to the lack of parking spaces for students, town residents, shoppers and other visitors to Shepherdstown.
“One of the hangups over the years for the parking structure has been the availability of financing,” said John Sherwood, the former Board of Governors chairman heading a committee in charge of the university’s long-term building plan. “The bottom line is I can’t say there is definitely going to be a parking garage.”
A series of public hearings on campus last week centered on debate over the lack of parking in Shepherdstown.
John Doyle, who retired this year after decades in the House of Delegates, said finding $10 million to build such a garage won’t be easy.
“It’s like finding a needle in a haystack because the normal appropriations to go for capital improvements have to go for academic buildings,” Doyle said.
He said that state law mandates that auxiliary buildings with no direct academic purpose must “float their own bottom,” as in the case of cafeterias, which make money from selling food.
“The bottom line is they’ve got to find some pot of money where there’s $10 million that can be legitimately used to build the parking garage,” he said. “So far, I’ve failed to do it and I’ve been trying for six years.”
Sherwood said that another major obstacle is where such a garage would be built.
He said that potential sites have included a campus parking lot on the corner of High and Princess streets, and the current site of Sara Cree Hall on East Campus.
Sherwood said that residents of Princess Street have opposed the parking lot site, and that members of the university community have suggested that the best use of the old Sara Cree building would be to convert it into a new student center.
A proposal to place the garage on the far West side of campus has been met with criticism as too far away from most academic buildings.
One possible fix, said Sherwood, would be to build a parking garage that also includes other amenities.
“It’s been a classic ‘not in my backyard,’” he said. “One of the most important things would be how you do the artistic renderings proving it doesn’t look like a parking garage, because that’s one of the problems people have.”