Michael Turner: City needs to set realistic parking requirements
May 3, 2017
My initial reaction to the proposed RiverView development on the old mobile home property in downtown Steamboat Springs is to wish them well. That said, there is one major flaw that must be pointed out to City Council and all concerned before final approval is given.
The article in Saturday’s Steamboat Today talked about 25 new public parking spaces. Currently, in the alley behind Natural Grocers and the Chieftain is an area where many who work at or visit businesses in that area park. Yes, it's often a muddy bog but if people park sensibly, there is room for about 25 to 30 vehicles.
Also, across Third street from Natural Grocers is a lot that was the old gas station, laundromat and convenience store. It is my understanding that it is currently being leased by Natural Grocers and is capable of providing parking for approximately 35 or more vehicles. It is often quite full with shoppers and I presume employees of Natural Grocers.
With the new development as planned, losing those two areas is a net loss of about 35 to 40 parking spaces, not a gain of 25 as stated in the article.
The important question is, how many parking spaces per residential unit and commercial unit will be required by the city for approval? In the recent past, many of us who have followed approvals believe that the city has been terribly remiss in their lax parking requirements. Basically, we have seen ridiculously low estimates for parking per unit.
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The reality is that the average low density residential unit will be purchased by couples. Most couples have two vehicles. In the high and medium density units, some will most likely be rental units. As we have seen in our community for many years, the rental units will most likely be occupied by two, three, often even four residents.
In reality, how many parking spaces are going to be needed for those people, rather than some convoluted estimate by a consulting firm based on bus ridership and walking that tells City Council what the developer wants them to believe?
Then of course, there is the mixed use aspect of the development. How many parking spaces are going to be required for those owners and employees?
So what we have coming is a development that will create a net loss of approximately 35 to 40 parking spaces with the absolute possibility of a large number of tenants, residents and employees of the new development seeking parking outside the boundaries of the development.
Should City Council approve this project without a realistic requirement for parking within the boundaries of the project, the citizens and voters of this community should never hear another word about "paid parking" as a solution to our parking problems.
Our parking problems will continue to be caused in a large part by inadequate and inept planning on the part of past and current city councils. I can only hope the voters pay attention to this and future developments and remember who is really responsible for parking issues in the future when parking continues to be more scarce and difficult.
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