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City suspends parking plan amid public backlash

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Residents decry Idaho Springs’ managed parking system

By Corinne Westeman

The city of Idaho Springs announced last week that the managed parking plan would be suspended until a June 3 work session.

The city made the decision after a May 28 City Council at which residents complained about the system, which went into effect May 15. They said the parking system is driving away business, making it inconvenient for people to go to church or visit relatives, and making it difficult for handicapped people to access businesses on Miner Street.

More than 70 people, many city residents or business owners and county residents, attended the meeting, with dozens asking the City Council to discontinue its parking program. It requires paid parking on streets and in lots with permits available for residents and employees.

Mayor Mike Hillman said that the council wouldn’t take the public’s comments lightly and announced the parking issue would be discussed at the council’s work session.

During the May 28 meeting, residents also shared ideas for making the parking system better: ending paid parking at 7 p.m.; allowing those vehicles with handicapped designation park anywhere along Miner Street without having to pay; allowing county residents to park for free for 30 minutes or fewer; and registering residents’ visitors for the whole trial period rather than each time they stop by.

Some residents commented that they felt the city and the county have a problem with gaining community support, saying they didn’t know what was going on unless it was by word-of-mouth. They also felt that the financial burden was being put on county residents, many of whom are older and are on fixed incomes, rather than tourists.

Downtown resident Jennifer Upright commented, “Let the residents live the lives they want, not the lives you choose for them.”

Council member Jason Siegel said that downtown parking has been a consistent issue among businesses for a long time, and something had to be done. The city was dealt a bad hand with its topography, he added.

Hillman added that this trial period of managed parking was to gather information in the hopes of avoiding a $10 million project to build a parking structure.

“This is new to us, too; we’re on a learning curve,” Hillman said of the managed parking program. “It’s an adaptive management, and we can’t think of every variable with this program.”

Audience comments

Rube Goeringer, a Miner Street business owner and city resident, said he was frustrated that the kiosk machines don’t accept paper currency or coins, and visitors can’t figure out how they work and end up leaving.

Bonnie Reimer, who lives near downtown, voiced her frustrations at having to register all her family members any time they visit her. She and several others felt that notifying a company of their visitors was an invasion of privacy.

Greg Dalrymple, an owner of the Clear Creek Cidery along Miner Street, said he didn’t oppose the new parking system 100 percent, as he’s seen other mountain towns implement similar systems. But, he stated, he was concerned with the way it was run, believing that paid parking should end at 7 p.m.

Linda Goymerac, who attends United Church, said she and her fellow congregants who don’t live in town have to pay to go to choir practice. She also pointed out that people would have to pay to park to attend a wedding or funeral at the church, as well.

“I wish all county residents could have whatever (permits) the city residents have,” she said.

Going forward

Later in the meeting, Siegel commented that, while he didn’t agree with every comment that was made, he wanted to thank everyone for coming to the meeting, submitting comments and being involved in the public process.

He recalled, before he ran for City Council, he was often the only member of the public at the meeting and was glad to see a higher level of engagement at City Hall last week.

“It’s been a struggle to promote public engagement at these meetings,” he said. “… We can’t know whether we’re making proper decisions without public engagement.”

City Clerk Diane Breece suggested that if residents wanted to make a difference, they could run for City Council.

Contact reporter Corinne Westeman at 303-567-4491 or cwesteman@evergreenco.com, and follow her on Twitter @cwesteman.