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Crested Butte council open to consider paid parking

Permits could be needed in 2019

By Mark Reaman

The Crested Butte Town Council is ready to consider a paid integrated parking management program for town but first wants to take a year to gather public feedback.

The council approved the recommendations of the citizens’ parking committee that sets the process in motion and allocated $45,000 in expenditures to address parking in the 2018 budget. The majority of that money, $25,000, will be spent on a paid parking consultant who will assist in developing the parking management program. An additional $5,000 will be spent on developing a website to go along with the program. Another $10,000 is budgeted for improved winter parking signage and $5,000 more for painting curbs at the town intersections.

But it is the paid parking program that is the meat of the committee recommendations.

“The committee feels parking in town is ‘free and easy’ and we can’t build our way out of the problem,” said Crested Butte town planner Bob Nevins. “So we need to change people’s behavior. The committee recommends the town put out a request for proposals for the integrated parking management program to be implemented in 2019.

“The committee is recommending the town do this comprehensively and that means paid parking on Elk Avenue and the downtown core area, paid parking at the Four-way lots and within nearby neighborhoods, residential parking permits, employee and guest parking permits, an intercept lot at the school and other shared parking agreements [with Mt. Crested Butte and CBMR],” Nevins continued. “We want to take a lot of time to flesh out the impacts of what all this means, but this is trying to get ahead of the curve and be proactive.”

Community development director Michael Yerman said the plan could be implemented quickly but citizens needed a lot of time to debate the merits of such a plan. “One thing that impressed me was the start-up costs, if the public goes along with this, would be about $220,000 and that’s about the same price as paving the Four-way parking lot. That’s still a lot of money but I’m glad it’s not a million dollars. The consultant would also be hired to work with Mt. Crested Butte and the resort.”

“The committee recommendation is that we should have a parking management program,” emphasized councilman and parking committee member Chris Ladoulis. “If the consultant is hired, he would be hired to help set up the program. If it becomes too complex for our little town we can pull the plug.”

“It is tough to say tonight let’s go ahead and implement a parking program,” said councilman Jim Schmidt. “If it is free and easy, easy is good.”

“Free and easy keeps pushing parking problems,” responded Ladoulis. “It makes it easy for people to get in their car in Mt. Crested Butte and drive to town instead of getting on the bus. Parking should not be that easy on Elk Avenue. Perhaps it is semantics. We are trying to make it easier to ride a bike or walk in town and keep Crested Butte pedestrian.”

Yerman said he would be talking to Mt. Crested Butte about participating in the program and perhaps getting them to contribute money to the consultant in 2018.

Nevins said other committee recommendations included clarifying the winter parking regulations and signs. Those signs will now make it clear which side of the street to park on based on whether it is an even-numbered day of the month or an odd day of the month.

The committee voted to keep Elk Avenue open to traffic and maintain the 15 mile per hour speed limit. “The committee raised almost every permutation of Elk Avenue and tried to address the unique challenges,” explained Ladoulis. “While not perfect, we agreed it works pretty well now, especially with accommodating bus traffic.”

More paving and striping will be put down in parking lots to make them more efficient. The 30-foot setbacks at intersections will be more clearly marked for safety reasons.

Councilwoman Laura Mitchell said she was surprised that there would be paid parking at the Four-way parking lots. “I thought that was a good place to go and park for free,” she commented. “Overall, it is probably time to happen.”

“That’s where the consultant comes in to better guide the ramifications of such decisions,” said Ladoulis. “It may be that after a year, things get adjusted. The committee is open to have this evolve.”

Yerman said the paid parking would bring in revenue but the council would determine charges and thus how much. It could generate enough to pay for the whole program, including management fees, or the council could subsidize the program.

“Do we need to dig deeper and build parking structures?” asked councilman Paul Merck.

“The company we’ve been talking to focuses on managing the resource,” answered Nevins. “The program can be dynamic and change. A structure is static and once there, it is there forever. This is a new way to manage parking. This is a balanced approach.”

“I want to get people out of their cars,” added councilman Jackson Petito who was also on the citizens’ committee. “I am a little uncomfortable with the license plate reading elements of the plan but that too is flexible. More than anything we need a lot of public input. We need to really engage the public a lot. This will be a big deal.”

“I agree it needs to be fleshed out,” said Schmidt. “It is difficult to get people out of their cars. My biggest concerns are pushing employees to park on Maroon and Sopris. I am okay with moving ahead but agree with Jackson that we need a lot of input on this. It’s not going to be easy.”

“Taking a year as the recommendation states is good,” said mayor pro tem Roland Mason. “I tend to agree that it is time to address this.”

The council voted 6-0 to accept the committee recommendations and move toward a paid parking discussion.

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