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Planning commission favors street parking

May 16, 2018 GMT

The Town of Jackson Planning Commission unanimously encouraged the Town Council to reconsider allowing year-round, on-street parking before approving updated zoning and parking regulations for Districts 3 through 6.

“The comp plan suggested we move units from the county into town to provide more workforce housing, and we would like to honor that commitment,” said David Vandenberg, vice chairman of the planning commission. “But I can’t see how we can honor that commitment without allowing for off-site parking. The numbers just don’t add up, and I would rather house people than cars.”

In a town of just 3 square miles land is at a premium. Although new zoning would allow increased density in some of Jackson’s residential neighborhoods, the commission questioned whether the additional 1,800 units needed to keep up with demand could be accommodated if developers are forced to provide 1.5 on-site parking spaces per unit, especially when considering requirements like the landscape ratio and setbacks.

By reducing the parking requirement to one space per unit and allowing developers to use on-street parking, more of the available land could be used for housing.

The problem is figuring out how to fundamentally change the town’s parking strategy without incurring exorbitant costs or causing undue stress to homeowners.

Easing the blow

“The implications are profound,” Director of Public Works Larry Pardee said. “It’s a whole different level of service and potentially means more people, more equipment. There’s also an inherent risk of damaging cars as plows push wet, heavy snow around.”

With that in mind, town planning staff recommended the council stick with its initial decision to prohibit overnight parking until their comprehensive parking study is complete.

However, Pardee suggested that if the council decides to re-examine on-street parking there are strategies that could lessen the effects.

The easiest, he said, would be to require developers to maintain the sidewalks and streets in front of their property at their own expense. That would ease the demand on the Public Works street crew. However, ensuring residents have access to on-street parking could be complicated, triggering the need for permits and enforcement.

The council could consider allowing on-street parking on a case-by-case basis for proposals looking to take advantage of the new zoning allowances. While that would allow on-street parking to be slowly phased in, it would present enforcement challenges.

Unintended consequences

The planning commission and staff played with the idea of allowing year-round, on-street parking in a single neighborhood, or even certain streets within a neighborhood, as a pilot program. Paul Anthony, the town’s principal planner, said he worried other members of the community would take advantage of the on-street parking, resulting in a higher number of confrontations and unfairly altering the character of a single neighborhood.

“Reducing on-site parking will cause spillover into other neighborhoods, which leads to conflicts and erodes support for workforce housing, which makes the next project more difficult,” he said. “For that reason we’re not recommending on-street parking, but we’re more than willing to re-evaluate these standards once the comprehensive parking study is complete.”

Once the parking study is complete, the council said, it would consider building additional public parking garages and allowing overnight parking on publicly owned surface lots in conjunction with year-round on-street parking.

The Town Council will consider the planning staff’s recommendation to reconsider year-round, on-street parking, along with any other potential modifications to the updated zoning and parking regulations, on May 29. Final adoption by the council is expected by July 6.