‘If this system isn’t lifted or something isn’t done, it’s not going to be about the businesses arguing with the city anymore. It’s going to be about nothing being left.’ — Parisian Bistro co-owner Nazieh Kadry

By J. PATRICK PEPPER
Times-Herald Newspapers
DEARBORN — A lawsuit centering on the city’s controversial paid-parking system is expected to be filed in July, members of the West Dearborn Bar and Restaurant Association said this week.
But while the intent is there, many details still must be worked out before any filing takes place. Still undetermined is whom or what would be listed as defendants. Among the options mentioned are the West Dearborn Downtown Development Authority and the city.
Also unknown as of press time is specifically what the legal basis for the complaint would be.
What is known, though, is that the group wants to put the brakes on paid parking immediately. Paid parking has been cited constantly by businesses as a reason for the district’s ongoing difficulties and was instituted to help cover the costs of two city-built parking decks erected as part of the unfinished West Village Commons development — which itself is currently the subject of a city lawsuit.
“What people need to understand is that if this system isn’t lifted or something isn’t done, it’s not going to be about the businesses arguing with the city anymore. It’s going to be about nothing being left,” Parisian Bistro co-owner Nazieh Kadry said. “We’ve already had at least five businesses close this year, and there’s a lot more that probably won’t make it through the winter.”
While Kadry acknowledges there are other problems facing the district like the overall economic malaise, the success of new developments in Allen Park and a drastic reduction in corporate expense accounts, he called paid parking a “low-hanging fruit” that could be addressed immediately. To that end, officials of the Dearborn Chamber of Commerce and the city have met to try to hash out an amicable agreement, but the two sides have been unable to come to terms.
Although neither has been named in any lawsuit, officials with both the city and the WDDDA consistently have held the position that paid parking was voted on twice and approved both times by the electorate. They have further questioned why the businesses should receive subsidized parking when everyone is feeling the effects of the shaky economy.
The businesses have countered that paid parking wouldn’t even be an issue if the West Village Commons project had been better executed on the city’s end. Namely, they say that the approximately $15 million parking decks shouldn’t have been built until the largest segment of the project – two midrise buildings – was at least under construction. Tax revenue generated from those buildings was intended to go toward paying down the debt on the decks.
In the greater context, though, the association said the suit should serve as a crib sheet of tough questions residents can ask of the city’s elected leaders, who all will be seeking re-election this year. Throughout the ongoing debate between city officials and business owners, association member Hakim Fakhoury, who owns numerous properties in the district, has been critical of the city for what he says is a lack of transparency.
“We want to have this done before the primaries (Aug. 4) so that people will have something to refer to and ask these politicians what the hell they’re thinking,” Fakhoury said.

Tags: