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University’s proposed parking lots upset neighbors on Palmer Street

| Thursday, February 3, 2022

The University’s plans to rezone four vacant lots on the eastern part of campus between the Library and Bulla lots have sparked pushback from a family whose relatives have owned property on Palmer Street for almost a century. 

Current plans to eventually build a multidisciplinary research building adjacent to McCourtney Hall will result in the loss of parking in Library Lot. As a result of this expected reduction in parking, the University is proposing to rezone some of its land around Palmer Street — a dead-end road west of Bulla Lot — for University use in order to add parking areas, University spokesperson Dennis Brown said in an email. The University cleared out the land on its lots around Palmer Street in November to prepare for the rezoning.

Courtesy of the St. Joseph County Area Plan Commission
A screenshot from the agenda of the Jan. 18 St. Joseph County Area Plan Commission meeting shows the proposed rezoning of four lots (shown in blue) on Palmer Street for University use.

The proposed rezoning is expected to include a total of 141 parking spaces, according to the agenda from the Jan. 18 St. Joseph County Area Plan Commission meeting. At the meeting, the commission voted 8-1 in favor of rezoning the lots for University use before the proposal will be reviewed by the county council for final consideration.

Robert and Teresa Smith and Adeline Marozsan, Teresa’s 92-year-old aunt, all own properties on Palmer Street. The Marozsan family has owned the land since 1924, Robert Smith said.

“We’ve owned these residential properties for 100 years,” Robert Smith said during the Area Plan Commission meeting. “Since Knute Rockne led the Four Horsemen, since before Notre Dame Stadium.”

The Marozsan family has not only witnessed the construction of Notre Dame Stadium, but has also seen the University expand eastward around Palmer Street.

The Smiths allege that the parking lots will create a public nuisance and diminish the value of their homes. 

Marozsan, who used to work at the University and has lived on Palmer Street for over 50 years, walks her dog down the street every day to pick up her mail at the end of the road. Robert Smith, who graduated from Notre Dame with two degrees, claims putting a parking lot with an entry on Palmer Street will damage the value of the properties on Palmer Street and pose a safety hazard — not only to Marozsan, but also to everyone else who lives on Palmer Street. 

“That will mean traffic on our street all the time,” Robert Smith said. “And it’s not equipped … There are no sidewalks, no gutters, no drainage, no lights. It’s really dark here.”

Brown said the University has stated in many contexts that safety is its top priority in constructing the proposed lots.

The staff report from the Area Plan Commission meeting states that the University plans to plant two rows of evergreens as a “landscape buffer” between the proposed lots and residential homes.

Robert Smith questions the need for parking lots around Palmer Street, alleging that he counted over 600 empty spaces in two lots on the east side of campus one weekday at 10 a.m.

Ryan Peters | The Observer
The University cleared out the land on its lots on Palmer Street in November.

The Smiths have expressed disappointment in how the University has gone about its plans to rezone its lots for University use. 

“For 100 years, my family on Palmer has provided Notre Dame with nothing but love and support,” Teresa Smith said in front of the commission. “It breaks my heart to say it, but our contributions count for nothing today.”

Robert Smith critiqued the recommendation from the Area Plan Commission, which states the Palmer Street neighborhood has been gradually transitioning to University uses over time.

“The report says the area has been ‘transitioning’ to University use,” Smith said in his speech to the commission. “It should read: ‘Notre Dame wants to own the neighborhood, and they need your help.’ They’ve been trying to get rid of us for years. Addie [Marozsan] once asked a Holy Cross priest, ‘Can’t they leave us alone till we die?’”

Brown said the University plans to do nothing with the five properties on Palmer it does not own, though it has made recent purchase offers to the owners.

“​We​ have communicated our plans regularly with Palmer Street residents — and, in Mr. Smith’s case, owners — including our plan to provide attractive landscaping in the area,” Brown said in an email.

Although Robert Smith is concerned about the success of his zoning appeal, he said he hopes the University and county council understand that his family does not want to pack up and leave Palmer Street.

“We don’t want to leave,” Robert Smith said. “It’s our little place on Notre Dame’s campus.”

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About Ryan Peters

Ryan is a sophomore in Knott Hall from Lake Forest, Illinois. He is majoring in business analytics and minoring in constitutional studies. He currently serves as Notre Dame News Editor for The Observer. Follow him on Twitter @peterrsryan.

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