Avon not ready for full parking management plan
Council members split on how to oversee parking in town core
After some recent back and forth between Town Council members and town staff, Avon is backtracking on its plan to implement some paid parking this winter. The paid parking was part of a greater parking management plan, which became contested by certain members of council in recent weeks.
The Avon Town Council first began discussing parking management in November 2021 and gave the town staff direction in March 2022 to begin planning and implementing a program, which would include increased and more consistent enforcement of parking limits as well as some paid parking in some “premium areas” during ski season. At the time, while not all council members supported the move, there was majority approval to move the program forward.
Since March, town staff took its first steps toward implementation, hiring both a company to support the rollout and a parking supervisor for the program. However, when a written report — which outlined the key elements of the program — landed in front of the council ahead of its July 26 meeting, a discussion highlighted differing viewpoints on the need for parking management, and specifically paid parking, in town.
This debate led the council to revisit the parking management plan at its Tuesday, Aug. 9, meeting, where council members remained split in various ways as to the degree of the parking problem in Avon, the best way to manage parking in town and whether the town was ready for paid parking at all.
Overall, Eva Wilson, the town’s mobility manager, highlighted that the primary concerns around parking in Avon are low turnover of parking in key areas due to employees and skiers; customers of the Avon Recreation Center being unable to find parking due to use by skiers, local employees and special events attendees; lack of parking during special events at Harry A. Nottingham Park; and lack of designated parking for overnight and oversized vehicles. All these challenges were addressed within the full proposed parking management plan.
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Additionally, Wilson emphasized that the current lack of parking enforcement in Avon was a problem, and the program would enable the mobility department to begin more consistent enforcement.
“We need managed, enforced parking because it’s just known around the valley that Avon does not manage or enforce their parking,” she said.
At the July 26 meeting, Council member Scott Prince was the initial member that raised issues with the program. His concerns were that not only did the program economically not make sense but also that its impacts would be inappropriately directed at residents and local employees — specifically for a problem that he saw as “limited to the ski season.”
“To have someone driving a 2-mile loop in town being a parking monitor for three-months-ish of the year, doesn’t really exemplify who we are as a friendly community,” Prince said. “The economics don’t make sense and as we talk about a managed program. (A) managed program to me is synonymous with having a paid person, so I just can’t get behind it and I know our residents will find this appalling to hear there’s just someone running laps on the skier shuttle route.”
The overall cost of the program was estimated to be around $113,000 a year. This includes an annual cost for a full-time parking manager ($90,000 for salary and benefits) and a $23,000 annual membership for the software. In the first year, there would be an additional $40,000 cost for the needed software and equipment, Wilson said.
At the Aug. 9 meeting, Prince said that he does see a need for some type of management to address parking at the rec center, but asked for staff to come up with some additional options outside of the proposed program to address the amenity’s parking challenges.
Council member Chico Thuon ultimately supported sticking to the status quo with parking, stating that he heard copious amounts of pushback from constituents about paid parking.
“It’s created a real buzz and the buzz that I’m hearing is: People don’t want it,” he said. “We’re one of the few towns that you can pull into in America and you don’t have to go find a ticket machine and I think there’s some sort of nuance to that that says welcome to our little town.”
Thuon later added that he is in favor of some managed parking, but that the timing was not right.
The only way to change human behavior is pain; some type of pain will change your behavior. Whether it’s not being able to find a parking spot on one side or coming to a town and having to pay for parking — two different kinds of pain,” Thuon said. “I don’t think our locals have felt that yet, I don’t think they’ve come to town and felt they haven’t been able to find parking or that it’s a problem.”
While Council member Lindsay Hardy said she was supportive of the idea of managed parking — specifically for the rec center — she didn’t feel that the current plan was the right course of action.
“I’d rather that money be spent elsewhere and I just don’t know if this is it right now, but maybe in a year I’ll think completely differently,” she said.
Council member RJ Andrade echoed this point, stating that while he was not against managing it, he would rather use the town’s current resources to do so.
“I’m not against parking management, I’m just against any time we need something, we reach into our residents’ pockets to get them to pay for it when they’re already giving us plenty of money,” he said. “If we need to manage our parking better, fine. Let’s do it with the resources we have, let’s not take more money out of our peoples’ pockets to do it.”
On the flip side of the argument, Council members Amy Phillips, Tamra Underwood and Mayor Sarah Smith Hymes argued that in order to have some type of managed parking, paid parking and parking software would have to be part of the plan.
“How do we manage parking without having some sort of management software?” Smith Hymes said. “If we don’t manage parking, we are not deciding who we want to have park in our town and when, we’re just letting everybody decide first come, first serve.”
Additionally, Smith Hymes said that she felt the parking problem was not just a “winter, high-season problem.”
“There is no doubt in my mind, that we have got to have managed parking. And given the parking fees that we’re talking about — which are after three hours, in the priority areas, we’re talking about $2 an hour — this is not an onerous charge,” she said. “It will encourage people to be considerate of the parking in the priority areas.”
And, as Underwood articulated, these three members of the council felt that the right time to do something was now.
“This is a real town issue — it’s not sexy, it’s not fun. Yes, some people are going to get upset, some people are going to be delighted,” Underwood said. “We need to start somewhere; this is a proposal to start somewhere. Yes, we’re going to have growing pains … I would like to start with what our professionals are suggesting as a reasonable starting place.”
Ultimately, with four members against implementing the full program this year, it was determined that the town will not pursue the full parking management plan as outlined (including the paid parking this winter) and instead revisit other ways to manage the rec center parking with current town resources, which was an area of consensus for management among council.
However, Town Manager Eric Heil concluded the discussion by emphasizing that the town will likely be ready to revisit it soon.
“I’m not surprised that we’re not ready, I don’t believe that we’re far off,” Heil said. “I think over the next two to three years, especially if we see infill development here, I think it’ll be a different feel. We’re not going to go backward, there’s only going to be more parking congestion.”