Council letting a cut continue to fester

It sure is busy for off-season. Lord knows there is no shortage of things to write about this week alone: local students getting a $180 life lesson in camping and drinking etiquette after being busted by Forest Service law enforcement officers at their graduation campout; developers being told in Mt. CB that, “development has to pay its own way” and that probably includes writing a check for expanding capacity for the main sewer line in town; GCEA board candidates getting frisky over a Boulder nonprofit and election rules; the state Supreme Court saying a CBMR waiver doesn’t cover every single accident at the resort; and even the opportunity to have coffee with a real live town council member! But on page 2 this week we’ll go with the cut that just can’t seem to heal—potential expansion of winter town parking prohibitions.

First, a shout-out that the Crested Butte council agreed at last week’s Wednesday meeting to continue on the path with local contractor High Mountain Concepts and build affordable housing units in Paradise Park. They had looked at using that money to instead help with the far larger Whetstone housing development. That could have thrown some local contractors into a sudden abyss by pulling the rug out from them and upending the next year’s work plan. But council decided to try and “have it all” and do both Paradise Park and Whetstone. They might. That was a good discussion and a good direction chosen by council. Details on where to come up with a significant monetary contribution for Whetstone are in the very beginning stages and might entail selling something like the old Ruby Bed-and-Breakfast that currently houses some seasonal employees. That decision is down the road. HMC will begin building this month and in theory, nine new units should be ready for workforce housing in less than a year.

I don’t really want to write about parking plan issues in CB anymore and I thought there would be a one-year reprieve but alas …that won’t be the case. The controversial direction to implement neighborhood parking permits that include two-hour parking restrictions on approximately 115 street parking spaces near the Sixth Street Mountain Express bus stops next winter appears to have split the council. At that Wednesday meeting, it became clear that at least three indicate they still want to proceed with the new prohibition while the others are weighing the consequences and are considering allowing local vehicles registered in Gunnison County to not fall under the two-hour restriction. That compromise is meant to help locals living outside town limits to be able to park in public spaces near the public bus stops and catch the ski bus to the hill, especially if the free parking in the Visitor Center lot is crowded.

The surprise is why there continues to be a discussion. It’s like when a festering cut on your arm is almost healed but then you decide to pick at it just a bit more and it starts oozing again. Mmmmm. 

While not perfect, the local registration idea put forward by mayor Ian Billick to cut members of the greater CB community some slack in this area makes sense. As stated at the Wednesday meeting, it would have allowed the collection of more solid information, would have eased some tension with the town’s other parking partners, would have thrown a bone to the greater community and would have acknowledged the issue of not currently having adequate parking alternatives like intercept parking lots along the highway or a Mountain Express shuttle to service the school parking lot on busy days. It seems so logical to take a breath and step back to reset the situation. Easy peasy. Even the town’s community development director Troy Russ indicated to the council he supported the timeout and mentioned how going too far, too fast with the initial parking regs on Sopris, Maroon and Elk caused controversy until a step back was taken. 

Instead, the council will let the cut ooze and fester into the fall so that the rumor mill and misinformation bubble can stir up the situation even more. While I don’t see the logic in prohibiting parking on public spaces near public transit opportunities at all, the one-year local registration experiment was a compromise that easily could have helped clear up some of the confusing elements of that part of the town’s plan by gathering more solid data and giving opportunity to the town partners to provide solid alternatives. 

If the council goes forward with the suggestion to slap on the two-hour parking limits for everyone except neighbors, it seems obvious to me it will actually push congestion into local residential neighborhoods (instead of keeping that parking closer to commercial areas or vacant land at the moment), send a negative message to its parking partners, diss the local working folk who use those spaces, as well as play into the projection that the town cares little for the broader community and the impact of what their decisions mean to the greater “community.”

As good as its Wednesday decision was to proceed with affordable housing inside town at Paradise Park and help local construction crews help their local friends and neighbors, this Wednesday decision to scratch the scab when an easy salve was in front of them is just as faulty. I guess this won’t be the last time I write about parking….

—Mark Reaman

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