Avon seeks best way to manage parking in town core
The town is considering paid parking as a way to address concerns
For some time, Avon Town Council has been looking for a way to get a handle on parking in the town core, particularly on the west end of town, where parkgoers, recreation center users and skiers exasperate inventory challenges.
However, whether the solution is implementing paid parking, increasing enforcement or some other mechanism remains to be seen.
Earlier this year, the Town Council tasked town staff with looking into a paid parking program in the town — underlining some of the town’s parking challenges and identifying whether a paid program could solve them.
In early November, Avon’s Mobility Director Eva Wilson presented an analysis of such a program, which was met with some support, some concerns and a lot of questions from council.
In this analysis — which was compiled by Wilson alongside a number of town staff — there were four main areas of concern identified around parking in Avon:
- A low turnover of spaces due to employees and skiers
- Rec center parking spaces for patrons being monopolized by employees, skiers and special events attendees
- A lack of parking for Nottingham Park patrons
- A lack of spaces for overnight and oversized vehicles in town
The 2021 Avon Community Survey highlighted a number of these concerns as well, particularly in reference to the park. In this survey, nearly half of respondents said that improving parking and pedestrian safety on West Beaver Creek Boulevard was a top priority for park improvements, and one-third said that parking was a reason they didn’t attend town events.
Several comments about the rec center also highlighted that nonpatrons took up the center’s parking, and general comments about mobility and parking highlighted a large need for parking in places all around town in the winters and summers.
Currently, the town has little to no enforcement to manage these concerns. According to the report, since 2019 over 500 citations have been issued for parking violations. However, the report cites that “enforcement by the Police Department is limited and is driven by complaints.”
“Basically the police department, they’re relying on complaints when they go to enforcement, they don’t go around,” Wilson said. “It takes a lot of people and equipment and vehicles to enforce illegal parking.”
Later, Wilson added that, “right now, there’s insufficient enforcement and people will take their chances.”
The analysis also included an inventory of parking spots in the town. According to the report, there are 2,185 public parking spaces in Avon, 500 of which are owned and maintained by the town. Of the 500 spaces, 160 are on the street and 340 are in lots servicing town amenities and services.
Part of the discussion of parking in the town going forward may also center around this inventory, including conversations on whether to reimplement and improve parking on West Beaver Creek Boulevard and finding additional parking spaces around town.
Avon would certainly not be the first Colorado resort community to implement a paid parking program. Neighboring communities of Vail, Breckenridge and Aspen all have well-established paid-parking programs that include numerous parking assets, staff dedicated to enforcement and parking software.
“I think Avon is definitely at that point that if you don’t want to see employees or skiers camping out on our parking spaces all day long, I think this is the program that makes sense to go to the parking kiosks and some type of paid parking,” said town manager Eric Heil.
Many details of such program would still need to be ironed out — including the fee structure as well as how it would be managed and enforced — but at the council meeting, councilors showed a wide array of supporting and dissenting opinions for the idea.
Council member Amy Phillips said that her support for looking into a paid parking program in Avon goes back to 2016, when Beaver Creek implemented its program.
“My mind has not changed in the subsequent five years,” she said.
“I think we’re behind the ball on this,” said Council member Chico Thuon, adding that with Beaver Creek’s implementation of a pay structure in the Bear and Elk lots on U.S. Highway 6, “all the skier parking got pushed over to us, and we’re basically a parking lot in the winter for skiers.”
Council member Tamra Underwood supported moving forward with some sort of partial paid element in a broader parking management plan.
Some of the council-identified potential benefits to implementing some form of paid parking include encouraging more turnover in the high-demand parking areas, stimulating public transit use and encouraging greener transportation options, which all increase customer flow to businesses by generating turnover and more revenue for the town. But not all council members agreed that these would be outcomes.
“There’s no commercial core that will really be benefiting from us putting up these systems,” Council member Lindsay Hardy said. “What’s benefiting here is we won’t have people just idling all day with their cars or taking up valuable parking spots.”
There was debate among council members as to where this paid parking should be implemented — across town or centered on some of the problem areas.
Council member Scott Prince said that the town needs to do something with certain areas, specifically Benchmark Road’s spaces and the rec center.
“Those fill up. I’m going to the rec center, and I’m seeing people put on their skis. That’s an issue, no doubt about it,” Prince said. “My concern is, this is not a townwide parking management program; this needs to be very specific, and I don’t think we are in the position yet to go to a full-blown parking program with staff, equipment. We need to take baby steps in these very isolated areas first.”
Prince later said that he felt some of these spots could be managed without a paid program.
“We need to at least give that pathway a try first before we go to a full-blown paid parking and piss a lot of people off,” he said of the rec center parking.
Who’s parking in Avon?
However, many council members expressed concern that implementing paid parking might have unintended consequences, particularly for employees.
Council member RJ Andrade said he was against any form of paid parking, citing concerns that it would add to the difficulty businesses are having in hiring employees.
“The majority of our commercial core has dedicated parking spots for their own businesses, so the turnover is not going to help their businesses that much and if there’s no one that can work in those businesses then they’re out of luck,” he said.
Mayor Sarah Smith Hymes said that for the town to move forward with any parking plan, it needs to establish who the town wants to park in its available spots.
“My concern is we’re going to make decisions based on assumptions, and we actually don’t know how many (parking spot users) are employees, how many are skiers, do they live in Avon, do they live elsewhere, do they have alternative options for transit?” she said. “I just think there’s so many questions; I would like us to have a consensus on who we want to park in Avon.”
Regardless of the answers to these questions, Smith Hymes said that she still supported having a parking management plan, as it would give the town the flexibility to manage its available assets however it sees fit. A program which would allow the town to charge for spots if that’s what it determined was needed.
“We need a parking management plan, and we need a parking management program, because this problem isn’t going to get easier, it’s going to get more difficult as more and more people move to town,” she said. “We need to manage our parking resources.”
A long way to go
The council reached no true consensus on the issue, other than agreeing that more information and research were required before the town can do anything with parking — and that it needs to do something.
Should the town ultimately decide to implement a paid parking program, it would require additional staff to really dig into how it would be implemented and operated — something that also raised some concerns.
“I have concern with creating additional staff; the town is already struggling. We’re looking for 9 to 14 people to fill vacancies within our town government, and I worry about the attempt of finding someone who could do this,” Hardy said.
Going forward, town staff took the council’s direction to keep researching and pursuing additional options — with and without paid components.
“This is a huge issue,” Heil said, adding that he “doesn’t feel like we’re ready to go start hiring someone for this. I think we need to do a lot more work.”
The town staff will likely present more details early next year. “I think we need to dig into the next level and figure out how to make this work at a much smaller scale than what we saw at Breckenridge or Aspen or Vail.”
Reporter Ali Longwell can be reached at email@example.com.