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Renting downtown parking: 7 spaces, or 92, or ...?
RDA recommends one lot as test
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A Platteville Common Council meeting without a discussion of parking is like New Year’s Day without college football bowl games.

Once the bowl season ends, the Common Council is expected to decide the fate of a proposal to rent some number of parking stalls downtown for long-term users.

The term “some number” depends on which of the two proposals — or somewhere in between — the council decides upon, for 12-month rentals at $30 per month.

The Downtown Redevelopment Authority board decided Nov. 26 to recommend renting the seven spots in the lot at North Fourth Street and East Mineral Street.

District 3 Ald. Barb Daus, chair of the RDA, called the RDA’s proposal “a trial basis starting with one lot, and if that fills possibly others.”

Daus originally proposed renting 92 spaces downtown, including 26 spaces in the Pine Street–Bonson Street lot, 24 spaces on the east side of Rountree Avenue near Pine Street, 21 spaces at the lot at North Fourth Street and East Mineral Street, and 11 spaces at the Oak Street and Main Street lot. Some aldermen favor renting all 92 spots.

The RDA board also recommended renting spots at the Family Aquatic Center, and subleasing spaces in McGregor Plaza that currently are rented by UW–Platteville.

Daus noted a problem with renting any spaces — only the renter will be able to use the spot.

“If we assign parking and I purchase an assigned parking spot … if parking is totally assigned,” said Daus, a particular spot won’t be able to be used by a downtown employee during the day and a downtown resident who works outside downtown at night. “Right now we’re getting some double use of some spots. That’s why the folks on the RDA recommended a trial basis.”

Daus noted that the 24-hour spaces in the lot at Oak Street and Main Street are used by residents at night but sit mostly empty during the day.

“I heard this from downtown businesses that taking these 24-hour spaces and using them for leased parking would cause problems for customer parking,” she said.

Jack Luedtke, executive director of the Main Street Program, said the Main Street board “supports the recommendations of the RDA” as a “test program,” not an “end-all solution.”

Luedtke said renting one parking lot at a time was suggested in 2010, but follow-through didn’t take place.

“You’ve got to start somewhere,” he said, while adding it “needs to be expanded by demand.” Estimating demand before renting spots would be “pure speculation,” he said, though he predicted that downtown business people would pay to rent, but college students would not.

RDA member John Zuehlke said the “phased effort” was based on the experiences of Dubuque and Galena in long-term parking rentals.

“This is going to have to be a phased approach,” he said. “We don’t think the demand is there” for renting more than one lot.

The Dec. 10 Common Council meeting included discussion of this past fall’s downtown parking survey.

Zuehlke said the survey received 917 responses. To those who claimed the survey was unscientific, he said, “I don’t think that’s a fair assessment. We worked with what we had.

“What can be gleaned from it is good information. … We still see the need of overnight parking for residents,” along with “the need to simplify signage downtown.”

“We’ve already determined there isn’t a parking problem downtown” for retail, adding, “You have a survey that reflects perception that doesn’t reflect reality.”

“On the survey they had a lot of wrong notions,” said at-large Ald. Patrice Steiner. “They had a lot of false information.”

“You asked the RDA to investigate this, and the survey is one small set” of information, said Luedtke.

“People who shop downtown are only willing to walk two or three blocks,” said Zuehlke.

Zuehlke said the survey showed that “People want more parking, but they are completely unwilling to pay for it. … If you go forward with all the spots allocated, they will sit empty all day long.” He predicted that renting too many spots would mean that “downtown will become a ghost town as far as residents.”

“The survey may have some flaws, but it’s clear from the survey there’s not much demand for $30 a month to rent downtown,” said at-large Ald. Steve Becker. “I think we ought to be closer to seven than 92.”

“There’s demand in winter and not in the rest of the year,” said District 2 Ald. Eileen Nickels.

At-large Ald. Dick Bonin suggested the city “just start with a small lot and see where it goes.”

Daus added that the RDA board wants the state Department of Transportation to study traffic flow on Chestnut Street between Pine Street and Mineral Street, particularly if the city goes ahead with redeveloping the Library Block. Four-hour parking is allowed on the east side of Chestnut between Mineral and Main Street, north of the Main–Chestnut stoplight, and there is one spot on the west side of Chestnut across the street. Parking is banned on Chestnut between 3 and 6 a.m.