City Council should OK college parking

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Hopefully, the McCook City Council will reconsider its decision to deny the college's request to tear down two houses and put in a parking lot south of the campus.

Since the council's 3-1 vote Monday night to deny the zoning change to permit parking, there has been an uproar from college students and supporters. Their criticism is justified.

McCook Community College is land-locked and desperately needs space to park the cars of students, staff and visitors. The way it is now, college students and staff have to park their cars on side streets, often two or three blocks away. It's not the distance that is a problem, it's the congestion.

It was argued at Monday night's council meeting that the parking lot, to be located south of East L Street beween Third and Fourth, would be a safety problem. More likely, the opposite is true. A paved, lighted parking lot would be much safer than the current situation, in which cars are jammed into parking spaces along the street, obstructing vision and making it difficult for those on foot to see oncoming traffic.

Where else can the college turn, other than the residential properties south of the campus? Because of the McCook community's attachment to Weiland Field, that is not a viable option for college expansion. And, looking to the north, the college is blocked by Kelley Park, another community treasure.

McCook, as a government entity and as a community, needs to partner with McCook Community College. The college means so much to this town and this area, both as a source of educational opportunities and as a contributor to the economy.

The college went to the McCook Planning Commission first and the planners gave their okay, seeing the merit of the parking lot proposal. Under the plan, the college would purchase two houses: one at 1111 Third and the other at 1112 East Fourth. The residential structures, which are back-to-back, would then be torn down and the land paved with concrete. The lots could each accomodate 14 parking places, creating space for 28 vehicles.

Further adding to the project, the lots would be lighted and separated from adjoining properties with a privacy fence.

The use of former residential properties as parking lots is a common practice in the community. Several churches have done so, including the United Methodist Church and the First Congregational.

The council needs to allow the college the same privilege. For the good of the college and the community, the council's decision to deny the parking lot request needs to be reversed.

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