Friday, November 27, 2020

Council wants some outreach on Elk Avenue parking violations

Mild crackdown on two-hour parking outlaws

By Mark Reaman

In an effort to open up more parking spaces on Elk Avenue this summer the Crested Butte Town Council asked the town staff to push forward with an “education and outreach” initiative to free up spaces at least every two hours.

The council initially wanted stricter enforcement of the two-hour parking limit on Elk Avenue but chief marshal Mike Reily pushed back against the idea, stating the effectiveness and cost of such enforcement just didn’t make sense. The council relented and asked for some stepped-up communication instead.

Ever since a parking consultant presented a comprehensive plan to the council last year that would free up Elk Avenue space through economic incentives—in other words, implementing paid parking—the council has been in a quandary about how far to push such a comprehensive parking plan.

Summer is always tight on Elk Avenue and apparently there are local employees who regularly take advantage of the lack of enforcement and park their vehicles for extended stretches on the town’s main business thoroughfare. The council wants to eliminate that.

“Enforcement in the past hasn’t really worked,” Reily told the council. “It is not a great way to get people to move. When they see the community service officer come by to chalk tires, the word goes out and people move up a space or two. It doesn’t solve the issue.”

Reily then advocated for the plan proposed by Interstate Parking that used paid parking and “parking ambassadors” to control parking on Elk Avenue.

“The two-hour law is in effect and we can address targeted complaints,” Reily said. “But it is not a good comprehensive plan to just have the two-hour parking ban on Elk Avenue. There are problems with that.”

“There are problems with the plan Interstate proposed as well,” replied mayor Jim Schmidt.

“The community service officer enforcing parking regulations gets none of the respect of a fully commissioned officer and all of the grief of someone trying to enforce rules,” Reily said. “We have had some saints in that job but it is not easy. It is very labor-intensive to enforce and it doesn’t come close to paying for itself. People get smart with how to avoid the chalked tires.”

“It seems like you guys really don’t want to enforce it,” said councilman Paul Merck. “I understand that. Maybe there are ways other than the marshals.”

“There are probably other plans that could get us somewhere between the full-blown parking plan and pushing cars into nearby neighborhoods,” said Reily. “Right now it doesn’t make financial sense and it does not get us the results we want by just having cars move up two spaces when they see the chalker coming by.”

“Our parking is a public amenity and if people take advantage of Elk Avenue and business people see that, I encourage them to say something,” said councilman Chris Haver. “And then I’d encourage you [Reily] to say something. I encourage you as a police officer to say something to the people who regularly take advantage of our public amenity. You can blame it on me when you give them a ticket.”

Haver said while he could support a more comprehensive paid parking plan he has not heard any public outcry for such a move.

“Maybe we can do a more informational campaign,” said Reily. “We can use the public’s assistance on this. We can give people warnings.”

“The seasonality of the problem contributes to the problem of implementing the plan,” observed councilman Will Dujardin. “People might be able to move their car two spots in the offseason but there’s no way to do that in the summer. Personally, I need more public input on which way to go. What do the constituents want?”

“I’ve heard a local businessperson on Elk say it is irritating when a customer can’t find a place to park and come into the store but an employee of a neighboring business is taking up a parking space. But they don’t want to get into a fight,” said new Town Council representative Mallika Magner.

“Are there any parts of the parking plan we paid for that we can break out and use?” asked Dujardin.

“The cost of enforcing two-hour parking is the same as implementing the comprehensive plan,” said Reily.

“I don’t see it as a big cost to enforce the two-hour rules for a couple of months in the summer,” suggested Schmidt.

“It would be impossible to find a community service officer for two months to do that job,” responded town manager Dara MacDonald.

Haver suggested using the local chamber of commerce to help spread the word about respecting the two-hour parking rules. He also would ask business owners to let the marshals know who is a regular offender of the rule.

“Parking problems will only change with an economic incentive,” added Yerman. “You have to charge money to see change.”

MacDonald concluded the council wanted to focus on “education and outreach” for the time being. Reily said his marshals would reach out and talk to people who consistently violate the two-hour parking rules. “The law is in place to support that,” he said.

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