Lease lot, property owner asks city

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By Tia Lynn Ivey managing editor

A request for leased parking has the Madison City Council concerned about the possible precedent it could set if approved.

Liselott Johnsson, owner the building on the corner of East Washington Street and Hancock Street (the old historic funeral home), is asking the City of Madison to enter into a month-to-month lease agreement so she can control a unique parking situation outside of her building by posting “no-parking” signs and allowing her to have unauthorized vehicles towed.

According to Johnsson, the unofficial parking space behind her building owned by the city, which is covered by an awning owned by Johnsson, is being abused by the public, which often leads to unauthorized cars blocking entrances and walkways.

“We are already maintaining and insuring the awning, as well as maintaining and cleaning the area. We already have to pay and have liability insurance and clean up leftover from people parking there,” said Johnsson to council at their worksession last week. According to Johnsson, a lease is the perfect solution, which would absolve the city of any liability under her awning and would give her control of the space until she sells the building.

But City Councilman Joe DiLetto feared approving Johnsson’s request would lead to other downtown business owners would start requesting to lease parking spaces in front of their businesses, too.

“I, frankly, don’t like the precedent that this sets,” said DiLetto. “I know a few people in town that would think, ‘well, if you can do this, so can we,’ and start requesting to lease two or three parking spots in front of their stores.” DiLetto suggested setting time limits for parkers to one to two hours instead of leasing out the space to Johnsson.

Mayor Fred Perriman was inclined to try the lease, noting the city could terminate the agreement at any point with 30 days notice.

City Attorney Joe Reitman suggested city council members actually visit the space in person before deciding to enter the lease. The council will readdress the issue at the next regular meeting on Monday, Feb. 8.

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