Basalt faces Aspen-style parking woes
BASALT Basalt is facing Aspen-style parking problems, but town leaders hope to avoid the most drastic Aspen-style solution.The flourishing town is swamped with vehicles on most weekdays. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to find a parking space on the two-block-long commercial core of Midland Avenue.”As Basalt’s gotten busier, it’s become harder and harder to find a parking spot downtown, particularly during summers,” said Town Manager Bill Efting.The town government instituted timed parking in the core a few years ago to encourage turnover. Parking is allowed in most spaces for two hours, with a handful restricted to 15 minutes.Basalt doesn’t have a dedicated parking department like Aspen. The community service branch of the police department undertakes enforcement, but Efting acknowledged that parking control isn’t always the highest priority.The town still takes a laid-back approach to enforcement: “If we find somebody over-parked in Basalt we actually try to find them in the office or restaurant,” Efting said.But the laid-back days might be coming to an end out of necessity. Business owners and operators flocked to a master plan meeting last month to talk about parking, not land use. Many business representatives said a parking structure is needed. Mayor Leroy Duroux isn’t so sure.”It all boils down to the cost of it,” he said. “I don’t know that the business community is making enough money to form a special taxing district.”In addition to starting timed parking in the core, Basalt tried to address its parking problem by taking over Two Rivers Road from the Colorado Department of Transportation and adding roughly 75 spaces a couple of years ago.Duroux said commuters use many of those spots, which don’t have time limits. Some of Basalt’s problem is also the result of workers in offices, shops and restaurants in the core using the two-hour parking spots and eliminating them for customers.Efting said the town needs to determine, “Is part of the problem us?”Norm Clasen, the owner of a downtown gallery, said it undoubtedly is. But options for employees are limited, he said. If an employee from a business in the core parks on Two Rivers Road in front of the Weinerstube, that just transfers the problem to someone else, Clasen said.Parking was an issue throughout the winter. Clasen said many in the business community are particularly concerned about what will happen this summer, Basalt’s busier season. Customers have told him they find Basalt charming but the parking scene frustrating, he said.”If we don’t do something soon, Basalt is going to suffer immeasurably due to its own success,” Clasen said. “The problem’s going to get worse. You don’t have to be a Philadelphia lawyer to figure that one out.”Basalt has essentially inherited the problem Aspen faced 15 years ago. “It’s a shock,” Clasen said.One solution might be establishing a parking lot on the fringe of downtown that employees and commuters could use, he said. And during summers, using the parking lots at the elementary and middle schools might make sense.A parking committee consisting of citizens, business representatives and government officials will begin meeting Monday, April 16, to explore solutions.The potential solution that most people avoid like their boss on late Friday afternoon is paid parking in the commercial core – Aspen’s route of choice.Efting said he “won’t even mention he word” unless it is raised and thoroughly discussed by the committee. He was an assistant city manager in Aspen when the city implemented the controversial paid parking in January 1995.Clasen said parking meters would harm Basalt’s charm and should only be examined as a last resort.Duroux acknowledged that paid parking would spark controversy. “I hope I’m not on council when that decision is made,” he said with a chuckle.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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