Friday, June 1, 2007

Ketchum drives toward new parking regs

Business owners cautiously optimistic about changes


By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer

The city of Ketchum this week continued to collect feedback from local business owners about potential changes to the city's parking management and enforcement this summer.

Opinions and information collected at two meetings this week, held on Wednesday and Thursday, will be presented to the City Council on Monday, June 4. The council will consider ordinance changes on Monday, June 18.

Map courtesy of city of Ketchum Ketchum?s parking management could change this summer. This map illustrates how the city manages its restricted two-hour parking and unrestricted parking. Click to enlarge (PDF)

Ketchum Senior Planner Beth Robrahn said a plan presented last month to institute one-hour parking in certain portions of the downtown was not well received. The focus has subsequently turned to how to improve management of the city's existing two-hour zones.

"Of course there was agreement that a lot of our current problems are because businesses and employees are taking up prime parking," Robrahn said.

Atkinsons' Market owner Chip Atkinson pointed out that customers are most important, but he cautioned that employees are nearly as important.

"If I don't have my 60 to 80 people I'm not serving anyone," he said. "Without them, it's useless for customers."

Ketchum Mayor Randy Hall said the goal is not to ramp up enforcement first but rather to educate employees and give them incentives to park away from the city's prime customer parking.

"We're just behind the curve, and employees seem the logical spot to start to create some capacity," he said.

Ketchum Police Department Sgt. Dave Kassner pointed out that the objective is an open parking spot for every customer who pulls up. He said the solution boils down to education, engineering and enforcement.

"That last 'E' won't be as tough if we get the first two 'Es' right," he said.

Hall pointed out that any plan the city settles on will have to be flexible.

"What I hope we can keep in mind is that this is a moving target," he said.

Ketchum Dry Goods owner Jay Emmer said most of his employees park within a block of his Sun Valley Road store. Some park in two-hour zones and shuffle their cars throughout the day, he said, while others park in long-term parking areas. He said there's a limit to what he as a business owner can do to encourage his employees to park in long-term areas.

He also pointed out that the summer tourist season starts in roughly 24 days. A longer-term plan is needed, he said.

"We've been in such a reactive posture that now we're running around like chickens with our heads cut off," he said. "We need to take a look at what we want five, 10, 15 years down the road."

Parking has long been an issue of concern in Ketchum, and the City Council reopened the old debate at its Monday, May 21, meeting. At that meeting, imposition of 15-minute and one-hour parking was considered in areas throughout the downtown.

"We've got a lot of inventory," Robran said. "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 stalls and another 933 time-restricted stalls, Robran said. Metered parking, though unpopular, was discussed at the May 21 meeting, 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."

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."

Shafran countered by saying, "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."




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