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For the week of Mar. 15 through Mar. 21, 2000

Pay to park

Express Staff Writer

No one flinched when the Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commission announced that it will advocate paid parking in downtown Ketchum.

The commission revealed Monday night to a room of more than two dozen Wood River Valley residents (most who live in Ketchum) a parking policy it will incorporate in the city’s draft comprehensive plan.

The commission announced that it would change wording in the draft plan from "study" paid parking to "parking in city rights-of-way in the core should be paid for by the users."

The policy section of the plan provides guidance for subsequent action plans that specify a timeline and some how-to details. An action plan corresponding with the policy has not yet been drafted.

"We’re trying to face squarely the real probability that parking is going to be a very real problem in the future," Commissioner Peter Gray said at the Thursday hearing.

Parking could both deter people from driving short distances while running errands, and encourage people to carpool, Gray said.

Underground parking was a topic for lengthy discussion as well.

"The city is the single largest owner of dirt in the downtown," Hailey resident George Kirk said of the city’s streets. "The automobile could go underground altogether."

Kirk suggested that the city look into building an underground parking lot beneath one or several of the city’s streets.

It’s a concept that the commission is entertaining in the draft plan as a public/private partnership.

According to a policy in the draft plan, city rights-of-way should be available for underground parking in conjunction with adjacent development.

The if-you-build-it-they-will-come argument surfaced in response.

"Parking is like my pants," Ketchum resident Robert Renfro said on Monday. "You can always buy a bigger pair, but that’s not always the best solution."

More parking spaces might not be the answer, Renfro, who worked on the city’s parking committee, said. He said Ketchum’s downtown parking spaces are almost never more than 70 percent occupied.

"When you have a genuine parking problem, behavior will start to change," he said of commuters traveling alone to Ketchum.


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