Avon to take initial steps toward paid parking next ski season
The town will determine the viability of a paid parking program along its skier shuttle bus route
For residents and guests that rely on free parking in Avon’s town core for easy access to the skier shuttle and the Westin Gondola, next ski season may look different. On Tuesday, the Avon Town Council showed majority support for implementing a small paid parking plan within the town core.
Town Council was presented with several options at Tuesday’s meeting for addressing a low turnover of parking spots in the town core during winter months.
While there was some disagreement among council members, it was ultimately determined that further considering an option to bring paid parking along the town’s skier shuttle bus route best met the town’s needs.
“I’ve long thought that we have to manage parking: we have to figure out who we’re trying to serve and we have to manage it. We can’t manage it without a parking plan, enforcement and some kind of a fee system,” said Mayor Sarah Smith Hymes. “I support starting something small for skier parking in the winter.”
Smith Hymes continued that the growing trend of visitors to the town could bring further parking problems in the future.
“I think we have to recognize the fact that we have seen visitor numbers explode over the last 18 months, two years,” she added. “From everything I’ve read about what’s happening with tourism, our visitor numbers are just going to continue to grow.”
Those in favor of implementing some paid model held that the current — sporadic and infrequent — enforcement of parking in town wasn’t working.
“It’s a matter of management, it’s not that we dislike people parking anywhere or we get mad at them that we have skiers coming in, it’s managing the ebbs and tides of parking,” said Council member Chico Thuon, adding that he was in favor of implementing a paid parking model “just to offset some of the costs” associated with managing parking.
“We need some type of management to get a handle on the issues we have,” he added.
On the flip side, Council member Scott Prince argued that there was little need for a paid parking plan.
“Really the only issue is Benchmark (Road) every day of the week, but we have plenty of open spots every other day with the exception of Saturday,” Prince said. “I think we’re trying to solve a problem that is only one day a week.”
Prince also said that he was struggling making financial sense of the presented parking plan and didn’t see the potential for revenue offset.
“I would be against any additional budget request to carve out parking enforcement,” he said.
Council member RJ Andrade also expressed opposition to implementing any kind of paid parking.
“I feel like we’re just looking for a problem that isn’t actually there,” Andrade said. “I feel like we’re saying, ‘Hey, we built these parking spots near a great ski resort, we’re a ski town and now we’re getting mad people are using them when that’s kind of why they’re there.’”
There was, however, some disagreement in how big the parking problem is in town. Eva Wilson, the town’s mobility manager, said that parking was an issue more than one day a week.
“It’s really dependent on the weather — whether we have a good snow day,” Wilson said, adding that when Beaver Creek’s Elk and Bear lots close, “the entire town gets inundated” with people looking to park.
“The news is out that enforcement is a non-issue in Avon, or that it’s not enforced; people park there and walk away, all day,” she said.
With a 3-4 split, the majority of council — comprised of Smith Hymes, Thuon and Council members Amy Phillips and Tamra Underwood — supported looking into implementing paid parking along the town’s skier shuttle route. As presented, this plan would maintain free, all-day parking in the Old Town Hall lot.
The skier shuttle starts at Avon Station and travels east toward City Market and Chapel Square, along East Beaver Creek Boulevard and across Avon Road, down Lake Street and Benchmark Road — ultimately heading up to Beaver Creek.
With this plan, paid parking, as outlined in the report, would apply to approximately 100 spots along West Benchmark Road, Lake Street and West Beavercreek Boulevard.
Multiple costs for these spots were presented Tuesday. Wilson’s presentation contemplated $2 an hour after the first three free hours. However, there was some support by council to do $3 an hour after the first three free hours, something Underwood presented as a way to simplify messaging. Smith Hymes also presented an idea for two hours free and $3 an hour after that.
The idea with implementing a new parking program next ski season would be that it could be scalable based on changing parking needs in town. Eric Heil, Avon’s town manager, said that while what was presented was not a “perfect plan” or an “end-all plan,” the town needs to start somewhere.
“This is really to take what we think is a manageable first step,” he said. “We absolutely will all observe what’s actually happening, we’ll collect data and then we would seek to adjust: whether that’s changing the dollar amount or contracting or expanding where we have paid parking.”
Implementation and enforcement of this plan will require additional manpower, technology and signage. Wilson presented two main options for enforcement: either that it would fall to additional police officers or to the town’s mobility department. Wilson said she felt the latter made the most sense.
In discussing parking across other areas of the town, the council was in agreement on two key areas. One, that the rec center should be more clearly designated and monitored for patron parking only — showing approval for increased fines in the lots as well. And two, that West Beaver Creek Boulevard should not be used for overflow parking on days that Beaver Creek’s Elk and Bear lots fill — something that was proposed as an option at Tuesday’s meeting.
Following Tuesday’s work session, Heil said town staff would look into the details and bring back a “more refined cost proposal” as part of the town’s April budget amendment discussion. Staff, he added, will also evaluate if it’s possible to implement such a program by next ski season.
Heil noted that with plenty of time between now and the start of next ski season there was enough time still to “refine the policy approach, program or even reconsider” implementing the paid program.
Reporter Ali Longwell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.