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Paid parking idea in Crested Butte on hold

Lack of public input says a lot

By Mark Reaman

Because there has been little public support or any major outcry for implementing a paid parking management system in Crested Butte, the town staff is recommending the council put the brakes on the idea. The council is ready to monitor the parking situation this winter and rekindle the paid parking discussion in the spring if they feel it is needed.

“We won’t implement anything this winter and, given the little public input we received at two public open houses on the issue, it seems there is no urgency from the public,” explained community development director Michael Yerman at the October 15 council meeting. “But the information and planning we have done to this point is good to have as a contingency plan.”

Town planner Bob Nevins said the plan now was to see what impact the Vail Resorts purchase of Crested Butte Mountain Resort and the addition of the unlimited Epic Pass had on the drive traffic to the area. In similar deals, ski communities indicated they had seen a 40 percent increase in parking need after a Vail purchase.

“We will feel it this winter if it becomes that sort of big issue,” Nevins told the council.

“Our staff recommendation is that the town is not ready for parking management,” said Yerman. “It is a big council decision. There is no public outcry. Now, if we see a 40 percent increase in vehicle traffic this winter, it could be needed. But at this time there is no recommendation to budget for this. Paid parking would be a huge jump and it doesn’t seem like town is ready for that jump.”

Yerman said a total of only four people came to the two open house meetings on the issue. Councilman Jackson Petito said he has had more people than that tell him they opposed paid parking in town.

“To implement something like paid parking, it has to get real bad,” said town manager Dara MacDonald. “We are not hearing it so people won’t buy into it.”

“I think doing the studies we’ve done is a solid move to be proactive on an issue we know is coming our way,” said councilman Chris Haver. “This option is a pretty good one to have when it is needed. We now have a tool to use when it comes time. I’m comfortable holding off.”

Petito suggested having the marshals gently warn people who park on Elk Avenue for eight hours at a time that it isn’t technically legal. “We haven’t done anything about it in ten years and they know that. Maybe a piece of paper saying we know that they know they shouldn’t be doing it would be a start.”

“I’ve become more inclined to support a parking management plan,” said councilman Kent Cowherd. “But maybe this winter will be a barometer, with Vail coming in and having that impact. We can use the time to work with Mt. Crested Butte and CBMR on the issue so it is consistent at this end of the valley. Interstate Parking said it would only take six weeks to implement the program.”

“It has to be collaborative with Mt. Crested Butte and CBMR,” agreed chief marshal Mike Reily. “More conversations are needed with those groups. Cars will go wherever it is free. We can look at it before next summer hits. That could help us out a lot. But those two have to be involved as well.”

“Let’s look at it in April,” suggested mayor Jim Schmidt.

“We already know the barometer. Summer is full on Elk Avenue,” countered councilman Will Dujardin. “We should do something now. I’d like to move toward next summer as a full-on test run and see how it goes. While Jackson is hearing from people opposed, I’ve heard from people who want it. Make town a more bike-friendly place. I urge you guys to listen to chief marshal Reily and don’t be afraid to take the next steps.”

“The problem has always been where do the cars go? We will just move them to residential neighborhoods of Maroon and Sopris,” said Schmidt. “Frankly, I was hoping the consultants had more details for us to react to as opposed to being so general and saying they could implement whatever we wanted.”

“I see this as a way to be smart about something,” said Dujardin. “I’m surprised businesses aren’t in here pushing for this more. It opens up more parking for them.”

The staff will do more research with Interstate Parking Company of Colorado to see what it would take to develop a more detailed implementation plan for parking management in Crested Butte. Some of the council had expressed disappointment with the generality of the Phase 1 report compiled by Interstate.

MacDonald said the town would look for answers from Interstate on questions such as, would employees be able to get cheap passes to park in town lots? Would there be resident and guest passes? How much would parking passes be for valley residents? Where specifically would paid parking be implemented?

“If the consultants want to charge to help us develop this plan we’ll come back to council,” MacDonald said. “The overall goal is having a developed, detailed, well thought-out plan to roll out at a moment’s notice if/when the public demands it.”

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