Discussion about raising on-street parking fines in West Lafayette might have seemed an odd place to spin off a debate about commercial development itching to happen close to Purdue University.
But it's actually a perfect segue for a conversation about whether the city is anticipating development that is bound to happen or is simply willing to react to whatever comes next.
That's a pretty broad generalization, because the city has been working behind the scenes with developers to make sure their student-driven housing and retail projects are good fits for the community along Purdue's edges. But the critics in the crowd are correct that more could be done to set a vision for what the gateways between Purdue and West Lafayette look like.
Parking fines played a small subplot in the recent debate over the $50 million, six-story Landmark project proposed on Northwestern Avenue, across from Mackey Arena.
As debate focused on what county planners said was a woeful lack of parking, it became clear that nearby neighborhoods were being used more than ever as a parking lot for Purdue students and staff. The West Lafayette City Council last week gave initial approval to match $35 fines recently imposed at Purdue. But not before getting another nudge to take on planning studies for the Northwestern Avenue and New Chauncey neighborhood.
Those efforts have been stalled over the years due to conflicting visions of commercial property rights and residential neighborhood preservation.
One solution to break the stalemate: Now is the time for Purdue Research Foundation, which controls huge amounts of real estate around campus, to flex its muscles a bit and help get this done. Foundation officials, during negotiations to zone and build Wang Hall on Stadium Avenue, agreed to be involved in the redevelopment of near-campus neighborhoods.Now's the time. Development is on the way.