WATERTOWN — City Hall will add at least 30 parking spots that will primarily be needed for the first-floor City Court expansion.
In December, the city purchased five parcels from local real estate developer Brian H. Murray for $210,720 to create the 30-plus parking lot at Sterling and Goodale streets.
For years, city officials have been planning the new parking lot because parking will only get busier with the planned completion of the $3.15 million court renovations that include adding a second courtroom in City Hall.
“It’ll be pretty nice to have the added parking,” City Engineer Michael DeLaney said.
More people are going to be attending City Court on a daily basis, with a new Drug Court specifically to address the opioid crisis and a Veterans’ Court to be held in the Washington Street municipal building.
To allow the project to proceed, the city’s Planning Board on Tuesday passed a zoning change for the parking lot from Residence C to the Downtown District, said Michael A. Lumbis, the city’s planning and community development director. City Hall is zoned in the downtown district.
Last month, an apartment building at 201 Sterling St. was demolished to make room for the new parking lot.
Design and engineering work for the project have not started.
The project will have to go out to bid. Construction most likely won’t start until 2021, Mr. DeLaney said.
In December, City Council members agreed to borrow $500,000 to pay for the property acquisitions, construction of the parking lot and other costs association with the project.
The properties that were purchased by the city also include a vacant lot at 209 Sterling St.; a vacant commercial property at 241 Goodale St. that was once the site of a two-family house; and parking lots at 231 and 237 Goodale St.
While plans for the parking lot continue to proceed, Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith, who took office on Jan. 1, still wants to stop the court project because he believes it’s not needed and a waste of city taxpayer money.
He met on Monday to discuss the court project with the state Office of Court Administration, which is requiring the court expansion.
In 1977, the state Legislature passed legislation that requires all judges have their own courtrooms. Five years ago, the state added a second Watertown City Court judge.