CB council wants to clear up public “confusion” over parking proposals

Local registration? Block party? Too many cars in offseason?

By Mark Reaman

The discussion over how to handle next winter’s parking situation in the town of Crested Butte is not over. The town council has received copious feedback on some of the proposals that include limiting some winter parking spaces on streets near Mountain Express bus stops along Sixth Street to no more than two hours. Council members generally said they have all heard a lot of negative feedback over the winter parking proposals but feel the public in general does not fully understand the proposals or the details. 

“My experience is that wrong information is out there,” said councilmember Mallika Magner who said people think more than 250 spaces will be eliminated year-round and the two-hour limit applies to spots at the main Visitor’s Center lot. Those perceptions are not accurate. “A clear understanding of the plan is needed. The information out there is not based in reality. Can we direct staff to come up with clear bullet points explaining the ideas?”

“I agree there is a lot of confusion,” said mayor Ian Billick, who has held several public listening sessions for constituents. “We could improve our communication. Maybe a work session dedicated just to this topic is needed.”

The proposed 2024/25 parking management plan would basically keep most of last summer’s parking regulations in place for this coming summer with the additional measure of going from head-in parking to parallel parking along Fifth Street north of Elk Avenue. Starting in mid-December the town would implement a two-hour parking limit on Butte and Teocalli Avenues between Fifth and Seventh Streets. Those streets are within 500 feet of the Mountain Express Teocalli bus stop. That would impact 102 on-street parking spaces. The same two-hour limit would go into effect for Maroon and Elk Avenues between Sixth and Seventh Streets east of the Four-Way lot, which staff said would impact 15 on-street spaces. In a staff report to council it was noted that the majority of complaints about the parking received by town involved spaces near the Meadows Condominiums on Teocalli Avenue. 

Town has a thumbs up from the school district to be able to use the Crested Butte Community School parking lot on busy weekends for parking. 

“I too have gotten feedback from people not understanding the proposals,” said councilmember Kent Cowherd. “People are misinformed. When people tell me we are restricting parking at the Four-Way lot, I have to tell them that is not happening.”

“My perception is that we asked for feedback, but it came after our decision to proceed with some proposals,” said Billick. “I think there is value to take a little more time with this. Personally, I would like us to consider using local registration to allow for parking. We can look at locals parking there versus the parking from tourism from the ski hill.” 

“Nothing is really changing until next winter so we have time,” said councilmember Anna Fenerty. “I am still confident with the plan we have in place.”

“Some of the feedback I have received that I agree with is that we need better parking alternatives like a park-and-ride in CB South for example,” said councilmember Beth Goldstone. “We can take the summer and see what CBMR can do and how to efficiently use the school parking lot on busy weekends. I agree we had to push the other entities to help.”

Community Development director Troy Russ said one meeting has been held with other transportation stakeholders like CBMR, Mountain Express and the town of Mt. Crested Butte to discuss parking and transit issues. Another will be held this spring.

“How do we disseminate that information,” asked councilmember Gabi Prochaska. “When people understand not all these spots are being taken away 365 days a year forever, they are more understanding, I am okay with a trial next winter. I don’t think it will have as much of an impact as people think. How do we disseminate that?”

Councilmember Jason MacMillan said holding a community meeting over housing a few years ago in the Center for the Arts was productive and perhaps a similar meeting could be held for parking. “It could be a place we can lay out the plan and explain the reasons we’re doing it,” he said.

“That sounds like a block party,” said town manager Dara MacDonald who indicated such block parties meant to provide community outreach were in the works. “We can come up with a plan for that.”

“It is important that staff present the relevant data like how few times the Four-Way lot is full,” said Magner.

“In a narrow sense I’m nervous if there will be sufficient access to mass transit 15 or 20 days next winter,” said Billick. “Based on what I saw last winter I do think there could be 50 to 75 spots that are currently being used that disappear. I would hate given all the confusion and how ambitious we are to have the whole thing fall apart next winter on big powder days. I think we should be proactive about providing good access to mass transit. And we have to do better with communication given the confusion.” 

Prochaska said it came to her attention that some lodging properties in Mt. Crested Butte provide limited parking in their lots and then recommend guests go downtown and park their vehicles in Crested Butte. “If that’s the case I would rather provide the parking for North Valley residents coming up to ski rather than providing hotel parking,” she said.

“That was one reason I was thinking about implementing local parking registration,” said Billick. “We can see how much parking pressure is from locals versus people from outside the county.”

“Any kind of parking registration would take a larger discussion,” said Fenerty.

Magner asked if that would “blow up” the current plan.

“Not necessarily,” responded Billick. “What are we thinking about in terms of the next five or ten years? It’s just an idea.”

“Local registration does do some things the town is trying to do, and it affords some relief to local people,” said MacMillan. “It does remove some teeth in the regulations but doesn’t totally gut it.”

“It’s not necessarily a long-term solution,” said Billick. “It provides opportunity to figure out critical information needs.”

“The complaint we’ve heard a lot is that we are being too aggressive before sufficient alternatives are provided,” said Russ. “I would push back on that given some of the things we’ve done with for example the expansion of the RTA service. We can take some smaller steps and do vigorous information gathering by implementing the proposals over time.”

“For me the takeaway has been the need for a renewed commitment for mass transit integration into the Whetstone project,” noted Billick. “We have to have North Valley corridor planning and mass transit as part of Whetstone. I appreciate the staff emphasis on that.”

MacMillan emphasized the potential with the school parking lot. He suggested it could be integrated into the Mountain Express route to make it more attractive. “It would be a great place to park,” he said.

“We need to stick to our guns with the parking plan,” said Fenerty. “If not, then there is no reason to provide satellite parking lots.”

“We are trying to limit all day parking in those areas because of the impact on residences. People are not hearing that,” said Cowherd.

Billick proposed holding a work session on the big picture parking issues to look at not just expansion of two-hour parking restrictions but things like intercept parking lots and the Mountain Express route integration to the school.

“People who don’t live in town are being asked to change their habits, but it is not meant as an us versus them measure,” said Magner. “It is part of a bigger plan. My ear is getting chewed off now because of incorrect information. It’s not a crazy plan.”

Given the small changes with summer parking regulations, council is ready to sign a contract with Interstate Parking for summer service while continuing to consider the winter parking regulations. Council will hold a public meeting to further discuss the winter proposals and big picture parking situation, but no date has yet been set. Staff will come up with an easy-to-understand graphic explaining the proposals. And council will craft a letter to the public explaining the why and how of the plan.

During the public comment period of the council meeting, Caren Carroll, Janet Martin and Haden Spencer all complimented the council for continuing the conversation and being “open minded” about making adjustments. 

“Town is blissfully quiet right now in the off-season,” pointed out Magner. “But many, many cars are parked in town now. It is something we need to address. We can’t just ignore it.”

“The days of the dogs sleeping in the middle of the streets during April and May are gone, for better or worse,” said Billick. 

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