Putting the brakes on liquor licenses and uses that would chew up more precious parking in downtown Libertyville is not the answer to what some perceive as possibly having too much of a good thing, village officials agree.
A proliferation of restaurants in recent years with more on the way has put a squeeze on parking that at times frustrates patrons.
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But freezing development as suggested Tuesday by Mayor Terry Weppler should not be the role of government, a majority of trustees agreed during a vigorous discussion at the end of the village board meeting.
"You need to let the free market decide how many restaurants are downtown. The market will settle it," Trustee Todd Gaines said.
Others said tight parking is a good problem to have, and curbing business is counter to a decades-long effort to improve the area.
"I don't think it's the place of government to potentially stifle this competition," Trustee Rich Moras said. He and others said patrons would be willing to walk farther to get to an attractive locale.
Weppler on Wednesday said he thought the board's position was a mistake. He said he intends not to take any new liquor license applications to the board but at this point would not block any presented by the board.
"I want to talk to more residents, property owners and business owners," he told the Daily Herald in an email.
With 600 more restaurant seats planned and only a couple of dozen parking spaces available to those properties, Weppler on Tuesday contended more patrons would opt to park on residential streets -- putting a burden on surrounding neighborhoods and hurting all downtown business.
Developers in zoning districts are required to provide parking, but that's not the case downtown, where the village is responsible, he said.
He suggested a moratorium on land uses that increase the need for parking, as well as on liquor licenses in the downtown area. The freeze also would have applied to increases in land use intensity, additional seating in restaurants and additional outdoor dining, "simply to give us breathing room to get some additional parking in the downtown, which we badly need," he added.
It would not have applied to O'Toole's of Libertyville and Pizzeria DeVille, two planned restaurants accounting for about 300 seats, which already have been approved.
Weppler, whose law office is in the heart of the area, said he brought it up after hearing from businesses, neighbors and residents.
He was supported by Trustee Jim Moran, who said he feared the congestion would drive customers away by the time more parking was secured,
"The unintended consequence of not doing anything will be a flame out of our restaurant community," he said, as customers go elsewhere.
Sara McKinnon, owner of O'Toole's of Libertyville, which is scheduled to open this summer at 412 N. Milwaukee Ave., said Wednesday her business likely will need valet parking at some point.
"If there isn't parking available, perhaps they (patrons) will move on to another location. That makes us a little nervous," said McKinnon, who also operates O'Toole's in Chicago and Gurnee.
A 360-space parking deck built by the village at Lake Street and Brainerd Avenue on the west side of Milwaukee Avenue, opened in 2009. Efforts to do the same on the east side have been stymied because of the number of private property owners.
Parking needs have been studied for years and various possibilities are being analyzed. Building another deck at the village-owned Libertyville Civic Center is a leading possibility.