City may soon crack down on alleyway parking |

City may soon crack down on alleyway parking

John Colson

A warning to local commuters: If your favorite in-town parking spot is a hideaway corner in one of Aspen’s alleyways, you may be in trouble.

That’s because sometime in the not-too-distant future, the city’s parking department wants to begin a campaign to get cars out of the alleys so that delivery truck drivers can get into them to do their jobs there, instead of on the streets.

The city’s Commercial Core and Lodging Commission has passed on to the City Council a proposed ordinance to deal with Aspen’s tangled commercial delivery situation.

The ordinance will make it illegal for deliveries to downtown businesses to be made between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m., in response to complaints from downtown residents.

In addition, the proposed ordinance allows on-street deliveries to businesses only from 5 to 10 a.m. After that, all deliveries must be made in the alleyways.

And to make that happen, city parking enforcement officers will be turning up the heat on cars and other vehicles parking illegally in the alleys. A long time coming The ordinance, which will be on the council’s May 24 agenda, is part of a broad attempt by the CCLC to clean up the congestion and mess that clogs Aspen’s downtown streets and alleyways.

Several years ago, said CCLC member Bill Dinsmoor, the commission started working on the downtown streetscape on several fronts, ranging from a campaign to replace dumpsters with trash compactors, to dealing with the proliferation of delivery vehicles doing their business at all hours of the day or night.

The delivery issue has occasionally come to a head over complaints from downtown residents. An example is the case of Adam Walton, a neighbor of Sandy’s Office Supply on the eastern edge of the commercial core. Walton has been complaining for years about being awakened by trucks delivering goods to Sandy’s in the early morning hours.

But it also has come to the commission’s attention through complaints from delivery truck drivers, business owners, pedestrians and others tired of dealing with the traffic tangle of Aspen’s streets during high season.

After looking into the problems, Dinsmoor said, “We realized the alleys didn’t function well as alleys anymore.”

The city’s parking control officer, Tim Ware, said the alleys are primarily meant for emergency vehicle access, and secondarily to allow delivery trucks to unload their goods into local shops.

But, Ware admitted, “There are reasons people are in the alleys.” If someone can show a legitimate purpose for being parked in an alley (such as a parking space on private property or a compelling reason for unloading away from the street) they can continue doing it.

But in most cases – such as cars that park partly on private property and partly on the public’s right of way – the cars will have to move in order to allow delivery access.

“The idea is to encourage the delivery drivers to get in here and get their deliveries done by 10 in the morning,” said Ware. After 10 a.m., he said, parking officers will begin ticketing delivery vehicles that are double parked or otherwise violating city traffic regulations.

And with the delivery trucks off the street, Dinsmoor said, some of the “truck loading only” sections of the local streets can be opened up to regular parking by passenger cars.

Ware stressed that there will be a “grace period” while the ordinance is being implemented to allow local drivers and truckers to adjust to the new rules. He was not sure how long that period would be.

But, he remarked, “If there’s too many cars in the alleys, we’ll hear about it from the delivery guys. And we’ll have to do something about it.”

Dinsmoor said a number of trucking companies have participated in the drafting of the proposed regulations, and have indicated that the idea is workable from their point of view. More city dwellers CCLC member John Starr told the City Council this week that another reason for instituting delivery restrictions is in preparation for plans by the city to encourage “in-fill” construction of employee housing downtown.

The city has recently conducted a study that showed there may be room for as many as 328 apartments, condos or other housing units in the commercial core. The homes could be built on currently vacant lots or added on top of existing structures.

Citing parking permit records, Ware said there are more than 100 people who live downtown in various capacities. He concurred with Dinsmoor and Starr about the need for some regulations to protect the lifestyles of the inner-city dwellers.

City regulations intended to restrict things such as noise and late-night deliveries are needed for those people, Ware maintained. He added, however, that those who live in urban cores ought to expect more activity and disturbance around them. “It’s also a price you pay for living downtown.”

Dinsmoor said the regulations are only a first step, and will likely be a “work in progress” for some time as the city continues to refine and modify its codes.

As for whether the proposed new laws are “realistic” or “workable,” Dinsmoor said simply, “I don’t know. I think the notion is realistic.”

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