Marina Parking Ratios

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It is almost standard operating procedure for commercial appraisers to count parking spaces and to calculate a parking ratio.  Unlike common commercial property types, calculating this for marinas produces incorrect results or no results more often than not.  Here’s why:

  • To count the number of parking spaces, you need a marker.  That can be striped asphalt parking spaces or concrete bumpers on gravel.  From our research, approximately half of the marinas don’t have either.  Even if asphalt is present, it may not be striped or it may be so aged that you cannot count the spaces with accuracy.
  • The dry storage area typically does not contain parking spaces, yet it is obvious by the boats parked there that the soil has sufficient load bearing capacity.  Should that area be counted as parking for vehicles just because, theoretically, it could accommodate them?
  • Having appraised marinas with lots of surplus or excess land, just because the eye sees that there is room to expand parking doesn’t mean that it can be done.  Soils and frequency of flooding are key determinants.  Soft soils that are frequently wet for extended periods of time do not get approved for additional parking.  Even if you could put parking there, it would not be asphalt – only gravel would be permitted by most municipalities.
  • What does a parking space contain?  For many lake marinas, a parking space needs to be for a truck and a boat trailer.  I’ve seen marinas that have more of these on a lot than just individual car and truck parking spaces.

Maybe we should have two parking ratios:  actual and potential.  The actual is the physical count or best estimate if markers are partially present or not at all.  Potential would be actual plus an estimate for the number of parking spaces that the site could contain given sufficiently strong soils, an infrequency of flooding, a lack of non-tidal wetlands and all those many considerations I outlined in my six part Realities of Marina Land blog series.  This can be difficult to calculate with accuracy and it certainly requires a good level of due diligence to determine.

Why the emphasis on parking ratios?  One reason is that we are trying to determine the adequacy of parking (if there isn’t enough, it’s functional obsolescence).  Another reason is that zoning regulations require a certain minimum number of spaces for restaurants, other buildings and the slips, so determining if sufficient parking is available is necessary for determining if the marina is a legal use or a non-conforming use, which may or may not be allowable.  It’s part of the zoning investigation that is standard operating procedure for appraisers.

Which leads me to the next question:  how much parking is necessary?  That depends on two factors.  First, how much parking is necessary for peak in-season days?  It seems that all marinas are full on key holidays, many to the point of overflowing.  Still, a small number of days out of 365 shouldn’t be the guideline.  Second, businesses at a marina have different operating days and hours.  For instance, restaurants that open in the afternoon don’t need to use the parking lot in the morning.  When most of their business is in the evening and most boaters have returned their boats to their slips by 4 or 5 p.m., spaces assigned for boaters sit idle in the evening while the restaurant needs more.  Boat repair may not be open on weekends so more spaces are made available for slip renters.  Boat sales may not be open on Sunday so again spaces become available for other use.

The conclusion from all the above is that it isn’t the number of spaces that’s important but the utilization.  Are there enough spaces for all property uses during morning, afternoon and evening?  Can overflow be temporarily accommodated in the aisles, on dry storage areas and as a last resort, on land that does not make for good quality parking but is good enough for today?

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