Pitkin County board begins discussing uses for Buttermilk parking lot
Preliminary ideas on how to better utilize a Pitkin County-owned parking lot at Buttermilk ski mountain in the summer include free parking for transit users, paid overnight parking, construction staging and free parking for nearby trailheads.
That’s according to a memo to county commissioners from the county’s public works director, who estimated an $8,500 profit under such an arrangement, though he said the primary motivation is to fill community needs rather than generate revenue.
“We can do what we want with this parking lot,” said Brian Pettet, public works director.
Commissioners, however, wanted to include the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, Aspen Skiing Co., Aspen airport officials, city of Aspen officials and a transportation consultant working on the Entrance to Aspen issues in the conversation about how best to use the parking lot.
“I feel like this is a good start,” Commissioner Rachel Richards said. “But I need more information.”
Commissioner Michael Owsley also advocated for a wide-ranging discussion on future uses of the lot.
“We have to ask how can this be of service to the community,” he said. “We don’t actually know (the answer). This is a real asset and it’s under-utilized now.”
Owsley suggested initially not charging anything for people to use the lot, which contains 347 spaces, in an effort to find out how the lot gets used. After that, a pay scale could be introduced, he said.
Richards said she’d like to see the lot integrated into the area’s larger transportation plans. She suggested having a designated free parking area near Highway 82 for transit users, whether RFTA bus riders or people who park and ride bikes into town, that would exist year-round and not just in the summer.
Richards also pointed out that with or without fees, the county will incur expenses by re-jiggering uses of the parking lot, and that she wants the project to have no impact on the county budget.
Commissioner George Newman suggested getting members of the Airport Advisory Board involved to see if the parking lot could be used for overflow airport parking. Newman also wanted to take a larger look at both the Buttermilk lot and plans to expand the Brush Creek Intercept Lot to see how both can be integrated for better transit options.
The Brush Creek lot is slated for a nearly $4 million expansion in 2018, which will include 200 more paved spaces, bathrooms and other amenities. Pitkin County recently gained sole ownership of the 23.4 acre parking lot near Buttermilk after it was condemned by the Colorado Department of Transportation and the county in 2000 to expand transportation infrastructure related to Highway 82, Pettet said. The lot is heavily used in winter by skiers, but usually contains only 20 to 30 cars a day from RFTA users in the summer, he said.
This summer, the lot was illegally used by people storing cars in the lot and sleeping in cars and RVs there, Pettet said, despite the fact that signs designate it as a day-use area only. County officials have now been able to clear the lot of violators, he said.
Pettet’s preliminary plan was to designate 50 spaces for transit users in parking area A nearest Highway 82. Those spaces would be monitored during the day but would be free, according to Pettet’s memo.
Parking area B, with 103 spaces, would be designed for overnight parking with a 72-hour limit for $8 a day, the memo states. The 179 spaces in parking area C would be for construction and commercial staging, with costs of $40 a day, $180 a week, $550 a month and $3,500 for the summer season.
Finally, the 15 spaces in parking area D would be designated free parking for Sky Mountain Park and other nearby trails, according to Pettet’s memo.
Pettet suggested contracting with the city of Aspen’s Parking Department to provide monitoring of the Buttermilk lot. A current proposal would split parking meter and permit revenue at the lot 50-50 with the city, while the county would receive all parking ticket revenue, the memo states.
In a scenario where 20 percent of parking area B and 30 percent of parking area C were used for a summer season, total parking revenue would be $48,500, according to Pettet’s memo. The city would receive half of that, while the county would pay the city an additional $15,773 for seven months of monitoring, leaving the county with about $8,477 in revenue plus whatever it received from parking tickets, the memo states.
“Keep in mind, the financial aspects of this program are not the catalyst for this proposal,” Pettet wrote in the memo. “The program would be put in place to attempt to fill a community need and more fully utilize an existing county asset.”
That plan is only preliminary and discussions about uses of the Buttermilk lot will continue throughout the fall and winter.