After more than a year of discussion, the Platteville Common Council Jan. 8 approved year-long rentals of downtown parking spaces.
On a 6–1 vote, with at-large Ald. Patrice Steiner opposed, the council voted to rent only the seven spots in Lot 7, on the northeast corner of North Fourth Street and East Furnace Street, by 12-month lease for $360 per year.
City Manager Larry Bierke said the rental plan in Lot 7 will be implemented “when feasible,” but no sooner than February. The resolution calls for establishing rentals “as soon as possible with future cycles commencing on June 1.”
Renting seven spots was the recommendation of the city Downtown Redevelopment Authority. The original resolution opened 92 spots to rental parking, including 21 in Lot 1 at North Fourth Street and East Mineral Street, 11 in Lot 4 at Oak Street and Main Street, 26 in Lot 5 on Pine Street at South Bonson Street, and 27 in Lot 6 on the east side of Rountree Avenue.
Those five lots were removed from the resolution by motion of District 3 Ald. Barb Daus.
“I can’t see doing all 92 at once,” said at-large Ald. Dick Bonin, who said that if no spaces were rented, “we’d have 92 spaces sitting empty. I can’t see tying them all up.”
Steiner suggested renting one additional lot, so that rental parking would be available north and south of Main Street.
District 4 Ald. Ken Kilian proposed a bigger expansion, renting the 27 Rountree Avenue spots and the 26 Pine–Bonson spots.
“Just starting with seven is too low a number,” he said, saying that the Rountree lot is “pretty much full up all the time. … I believe Lot 5 and Lot 6 are mainly occupied by tenants.”
To Kilian’s suggestion of renting 53 spots, Bonin asked, “How many of these cars are going to be back there? They’re going to find somewhere else to park.”
Kilian’s motion to rent the Rountree Avenue spots died for lack of a second. Kilian’s motion to rent the Pine–Bonson spots failed 4–3, with Kilian, Common Council President Mike Dalecki and Steiner in favor.
Dalecki said starting rentals at a lot farthest away from Main Street was “least desirable,” and added, “I don’t know what seven is going to tell us. I do agree with Dick that 92 is too much.”
“I still don’t believe the demand’s there,” said at-large Ald. Steve Becker. “Unless we’re going to close all of them off and rent all of them, they’re not going to park there.”
Becker proposed renting seven first and “if somebody takes them, rent seven more.”
Dalecki called free downtown parking “a taxpayer-funded private usage just like we saw on Wall Street all the time with the bailouts … just doing seven isn’t going to tell us much.
“This is a taxpayer issue. Why should taxpayers be subsidizing parking?”
To that, downtown resident Rich Christensen said, “Anybody that’s using any of the lots, that’s being subsidized by the city; anybody that’s parking on a street overnight, that’s being subsidized by the city.”
“The parking issues are related to the people who live in the downtown area and work in the downtown area and have to move their cars overnight” from one 24-hour space to another, said Daus. “There is demand for overnight parking.”
Main Street Program executive director Jack Luedtke said District 2 Ald. Eileen Nickels had proposed a test of “approximately the same number of stalls” 1½ years ago.
“One of the things you can’t overlook is you have higher tax valuation on buildings downtown,” he said, but to have tenants requires available parking.
“We don’t know what that demand is,” said RDA board member Mike Olds. “What we’re trying to find out initially is who is really interested in this, because we don’t want to have people pay for this unless they really, really have that need.”
Christensen said there was no issue with downtown parking “until the council made the changes in June,” creating permit parking south of Pine Street.
“I’m pretty disappointed with how long this has dragged on and no answers being found,” he said. “What happened tonight is the same thing that happened June 1. … How does paid parking improve downtown parking in any way? It doesn’t. … It’s really very simple — the Common Council is making downtown parking worse.”
The 12-month rental was twice the length the RDA had recommended, said Daus, “which is kind of consistent with some of our downtown residents and the fact they’re here for just some of and not the whole year.”
The nonrefundable up-front fee got the attention of Steiner, who said, “If somebody has to leave town, they’d be out quite a lot of money, and I would think that’d be a deterrent to renting one.”
Bierke said permit-holders can sublease them, but the city will only have a record of the person who pays for the lease.
Bierke said enforcement of a space will be up to the lease-holder, who can ask the city to have a car towed from the leased spot if it’s not authorized to be there.
“We would have no record of who’s allowed to park in a space and who isn’t,” he said.
The council also approved an ordinance to place signs in Lot 7 and future rented lots that will say “Assigned Parking Only — Violators Will Be Towed.”