Friday, July 21, 2006

Parking shift could open more spaces

Express Staff Writer

Ketchum's mini plaza has added a green spot downtown for the picnicking and lunch crowd.

It also has taken away 12 parking spaces in the center of the city.

City Councilwoman Terry Tracy has proposed that the city take the lead in recouping those spaces—by suggesting that city employees park elsewhere.

"We have the opportunity to retrieve those 12 spaces and more," she said during a meeting Monday. "We can set an example to the rest of the community. I think every employer needs to realize they're not only hurting their own business but everyone's by allowing their employees to park in front of their businesses."

Parking is available at lots on Sixth and Leadville, at the LDS church on Spruce and at the end of East Avenue.

The idea got a lukewarm response from other council members.

Steven Shafran said the symbolic nature of the suggestion was admirable, but the newly freed spaces could simply provide more parking for other workers.

"I hate to see our people get taken advantage of so it can be that much better for (other employees)," he said.

Councilman Baird Gourlay agreed.

"We're just putting an interim solution onto a long-term problem," he said. "It's an honorable thing to do, but I hate penalizing city employees when someone else is just going to move in to their spot."

"We're putting a Band-Aid on everything in this town," Tracy responded. "That park is a Band-Aid. This building is a Band-Aid."

Councilman Ron Parsons sided with Tracy.

"I don't think it's harsh," he said. "It's got to start somewhere. It's not like tromping five miles through the snow like some crazy story you heard as a kid. It's two blocks."

Planning & Zoning Commissioner Deborah Burns, who attended Monday's meeting, said she and other retailers, plus the chamber of commerce, had already entered into a "moral contract" to park outside the core.

In the long term, the city is looking at other options, including paid parking, to bring more short-term parking spaces to the downtown area.

As soon as a parking authority is up and running next month, they will discuss converting all-day parking slots to two-hour spaces. Middle stalls on East Avenue from Fifth to Sixth streets are likely candidates. Curb-side spaces are already two-hour.

"You have a number of businesses that could benefit from that," said Planning Director Harold Moniz.

A public meeting on parking and the downtown master plan might be held this fall.

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