Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Employee parking deemed downtown problem

Ketchum may change parking laws this summer

Express Staff Writer

Ketchum policymakers may stir the parking pot this summer.

"We really owe it to our community to get the employees out of the equation, and then we can determine whether we really have a parking problem," said Ketchum Mayor Randy Hall in an interview two weeks ago.

The City Council followed up on Monday, May 21, when it considered a plan to implement 15-minute and one-hour parking in areas throughout the downtown. The plan would be implemented this summer, but it is still only conceptual. Part of the model, too, would be to increase enforcement and increase fines.

"We've got a lot of inventory," said Ketchum Planner Beth Robrahn. "It's just, how do we manage it? The shortage of parking corresponds with the retail area of downtown. It just confirms what we know. So how do we get more employees parking in those (peripheral) areas to distribute the demand?"

Ketchum has 990 unrestricted parking spaces and another 933 time-restricted spaces, Robrahn said. Metered parking, though unpopular, was discussed, and so was implementation of a transportation system to shuttle to and from peripheral parking lots in town.

"I'm not there on the need for meters," said Councilman Steve Shafran. "If enforcement works, if people honor the two-hour parking, there's no need for meters. It's not a forgone conclusion in my mind."

Ketchum Mayor Randy Hall pushed his colleagues to consider measures that would keep cars off the highway in the first place, but he was met with resistance.

"If we focus more on the capacity issues and get people to leave their cars in their driveways down-valley there won't be as much of a problem up here," he said. "It's harder for us to manage the cars once they're in Ketchum."

However, Shafran said he believed that "what we have right now is a customer parking problem that we can take care of right now, today. The longer-term issue is the cars on the highway."

Ketchum Police Sgt. Dave Kassner said awareness could go a long way toward alleviating the problem.

"A great deal of what we need to accomplish is through education," he said. "We need to talk with the merchants and let them know what's happening with all this. About 90 percent of our...violators are employees. Of the repeat violators, four or more violations, 75 percent are employees."

Councilwoman Terry Tracy agreed with her colleagues that the City Council should hear from more downtown merchants before implementing any new measures, perhaps as early as this summer.

"I think it comes down to education, implementation and input from the business owners," she said. "Those are the three things we need to do."

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