PLATTEVILLE — The seeming disconnect between the Platteville Common Council and downtown Platteville businesses on downtown parking may have been illuminated by one fact.
At a meeting of the Downtown Parking Alliance Sept. 11, state Sen. Dale Schultz (R–Richland Center) and Rep. Travis Tranel (R–Cuba City) were present. Only one Common Council member, District 2 Ald. Eileen Nickels, and City Manager Larry Bierke were at the meeting.
“It goes back to people in the community feeling like they have little input,” said Glen Bahr, co-owner of Erschen’s Florist. Bahr said the council’s public comment structure serves to “choke down the community. … There have been so many meetings I’ve been at in the last few months where there’s no opportunity to communicate.”
“We have existing lines of communication, which I’m seeing aren’t entirely adequate,” said Bierke.
On the other hand, on one pending city issue, lines of communication won’t necessarily lead to agreement between the Common Council and downtown businesses.
“We’re looking for downtown businesses and employees and tenants and customers to have available parking,” said Bahr.
But, replied Bierke, “I would say a majority of the council” isn’t supporting free downtown parking, other than that “We want to make sure that customers have free parking on Main Street.”
“How many of the council own downtown businesses?” replied Bahr.
At one point, Todd Allbaugh, a legislative assistant for Schultz and a former Richland Center alderman, asked how many aldermen were at the meeting.
Nickels, the only alderman present, said she wasn’t sure if other members of the council had been notified of the meeting.
“People need to understand that we’re all on the same team working together,” said Tranel. “You can’t tell them what to do, but I don’t know an elected official who doesn’t want to make people happy.”
Another example was the proposal for student housing on the Pine/Bonson parking lot, which the city considered before the would-be developer backed out this spring.
Lori Erschen Bahr, co-owner of Erschen’s Florist, said the Pine/Bonson proposal “happened so fast without the input of businesses in the downtown area and residents. … Selling our largest, most accessible parking lot downtown was the other problem with business people downtown.
“How do we protect that parking lot so that a student housing development does not take that parking away from us?”
Bierke said the proposed $4.5 million development would have resulted in more than 50 parking spots available to the public.
“We changed parking five or six times, and the developer finally threw his hands up in the air and said no,” said Bierke.
Also at the meeting was UW–Platteville Chancellor Dennis Shields, who responded to comments that UWP didn’t plan enough parking for the new Rountree Commons dorm.
“We built a residence hall, and we knew there wasn’t going to be enough parking on site,” he said. “That does not mean we didn’t consider parking. Because the building wasn’t surrounded by a parking lot does not mean the students don’t have a place to park.”
“The state has made a determination that the university must grow for the sake of the state,” said Schultz.
The construction of Rountree Commons led residents east and northeast of Rountree Commons to get the Common Council to require permit parking near Rountree Commons.
“We were trying to accommodate the neighborhood so that 600 cars didn’t park on neighborhood streets,” said Bierke.
“The point of the permits was to ensure that students didn’t park there,” said Shields. “We thought this was a better, more efficient way to deal with this than to put up a parking lot in the neighborhood.”
Shields also pointed out that a shuttle service paid for by students has been running since the academic year began. He added that UW–Platteville would consider banning resident freshmen from bringing cars on campus.
“That’s the rule on a lot of campuses; that’s unheard of here,” he said.
“You’ve got to put everything on the table,” said Schultz.
The Downtown Parking Alliance is meeting at Midwest Floral Design School, 30 N. Fourth St., today at 6 p.m. to go over the city Downtown Redevelopment Authority’s Downtown Parking Public Survey.
The survey is expected to be included in the city’s October water bills. Those interested will be able to fill out the survey online at SurveyMonkey.com.