Growing pains: Eagle Town Council repeals change to parking policy downtown
Town Council approves proposal to exclude downtown area from policy requiring new businesses to build out parking or pay a fee to the town
Public parking in downtown Eagle is no longer enough to meet the needs of incoming businesses, according to town staff, but a new policy that aimed to fix this has had some unintended consequences on businesses.
To some, especially those who have lived in more populous areas, the idea that Eagle already has a parking shortage may seem laughable — but town staff have expressed the need to implement a stronger parking plan now as the town will continue to grow.
According to a report from town staff presented before the Eagle Town Council last week, “Street improvements in the downtown area have not kept up with the need for parking generated from new development. As a result, parking complaints have arisen.”
In January, the Town Council approved a new “Parking Fee In-Lieu Program” and modified existing parking standards within Eagle’s municipal code in an attempt to address this issue.
The “Parking Fee In-Lieu Program” gives businesses and developers within a designated area in town three options to meet the town’s parking requirements.
The first option is to provide off-street parking as required by Eagle’s municipal code. The second is to pay a fee of $23,100 per required parking space if building out the parking spaces is not feasible. Finally, businesses can construct the required number of on-street parking spaces and pay a one-time cost of $7,000 per space to the town to help with the cost of future maintenance.
“The purpose of the program is for developers or property owners to meet the parking needs of the community when on-site parking is financially and/or logistically unachievable,” according to the staff report.
The program only applies to businesses in a designated commercial area located southeast of Grand Avenue that is bordered by 5th Street to the south and Howard Street to the east.
Previously, Eagle’s Central Business District and Broadway District were exempt from the town’s requirement to provide additional parking when a new business moves into an existing building and generates the need for more off-street parking. When the Town Council created these new options for meeting the requirement, though, that exemption was removed.
At the time, this seemed like a good way to fund much-needed street improvements downtown, but this new requirement has had some unintended consequences for downtown businesses.
“I am very much in favor of waiving this requirement in the central business district,” one resident said in a written public comment submitted to town staff.
“There are recently signed leases at Broadway Station for both a restaurant and a juice bar. Both entities anticipate requesting outdoor seating which would be a great public amenity and ambiance creator for Broadway,” the resident said.
The business owners have invested in a “sidewalk beautification project” to accommodate the new outdoor seating. However, if they are required to pay fees to meet the town’s parking requirements that now apply to them “neither entity would be able to afford to pay it due to the rather large tenant improvement costs for these new spaces, as well as the associated costs and risks of brick-and-mortar startup businesses…” the resident said.
“…(T)here is ample parking in the downtown area, even if patrons will sometimes have to park and walk a block or two to get to their destination, as is true in all thriving downtown areas such as those in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, Breckenridge, Steamboat Springs, Telluride, and many others,” the resident said. “These towns, like Eagle, have made the decision to leverage the public parking in their downtown areas for the public good of redevelopment of older buildings leading to a thriving downtown.”
A second public commenter cited Mountain Tots in Eagle as another example of a downtown business that has been adversely affected by the recent change in policy. The business now has a minimum requirement of eight parking spots that it is proposing to satisfy by paving over the property’s front yard and “creating a large curb cut for off‐street parking,” the public commenter said in a written statement.
In this case, the requirement to provide parking will ultimately cause a reduction in available parking as the creation of a private parking lot will eliminate anywhere from four to eight spots of public, on-street parking, the public commenter said.
“It’s nonsensical that the town would require a developer to remove public parking and pave over green space to create private spaces that would only be used for an hour per day,” the resident said. “The sensible solution would be to require the applicant to develop curb and parking along the length of their property.”
“These parking requirements were not fully thought out. By following the national standard parking requirements, we are going to end up with national standard development — strip malls surrounded by a sea of pavement that is rarely used. Street parking is an efficient way for business to share space,” the resident continued. “Offices, stores, restaurants, and residences all have different peak usage hours. There is no reason to require all business to provide parking for their peak hour while their neighbors’ lots sit empty.”
A resolution to reinstate the exemption from parking requirements for downtown businesses was passed by the Eagle Town Council at its meeting on Tuesday, March 8. For now, downtown businesses will no longer have to worry about choosing between fulfilling parking spot minimums or paying a fee to the town.
Town Council member Geoff Grimmer said town staff is looking into ways to meet the need for parking and street improvements downtown without placing an undue burden on business owners as they begin updating much of Eagle’s municipal code in a process he called “recoding.”
“As Broadway starts to build up, we’re going to need good parking solutions in the downtown core,” Grimmer said Friday. “… I think you’ll see a lot more clarity once we roll out our recoding for the town.”
Email Kelli Duncan at email@example.com