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City of Durango considers parking permits for neighborhoods east of downtown

Some residents support plan; others see it as government incursion
It’s not always easy finding a parking spot on East Third Avenue in Durango. It can be especially frustrating for residents who live along the historic boulevard. The city plans to hold a meeting at 5:30 p.m. June 26 at the Durango Public Library to further discuss the possibility of a parking permitting system. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

The city of Durango is considering a parking permitting system for neighborhoods east of downtown, but it has a tough balancing act.

Residents in the neighborhoods east of downtown must sometimes walk several blocks because they can’t park in front of their own homes. Yet, workers, employers and shoppers regularly rely on parking east of the downtown for easy access to the crowded business district.

The parking on East Third Avenue and the streets farther east is also free, which means people can park there all day or all night without fear of getting ticketed or towed.

Whose needs should take precedence? That will be discussed later this month at a meeting being hosted by the city of Durango.

If you go

The city of Durango will hold a meeting at 5:30 p.m. June 26 at the Durango Public Library, 1900 East Third Ave., to discuss the possibility of implementing a neighborhood parking permit program in the neighborhoods east of downtown.

A neighborhood parking permit program in the neighborhoods east of downtown could require those who want to park there to pay for a permit while prioritizing permits for residents, said Tom Sluis, spokesman for the city of Durango.

“We do have city lots, but it’s typically easier for people to go over a couple of blocks and park in the avenues because they can park there all day,” he said.

As of now, the exact parameters of the permitting program for “the neighborhood east of downtown,” as the city of Durango describes it, are up for discussion. In addition to defining the geographical area of the permitted parking area, the city must consider how many permits might be allowed per household, how expensive they would be and what times permits would be required (if not all the time).

There are a lot of unknowns, which is why the city is seeking residents’ feedback.

The implementation of a permitting program somewhere in the neighborhoods east of downtown has been a goal of the Boulevard Neighborhood Association, a neighborhood advocacy group for residents of East Third Avenue, since the group’s founding in 1984, said Mike Todt, treasurer for the association.

The organization has been the main driver in requesting a public meeting to discuss a permitting program.

Todt said in the 40-plus years since its founding, the organization has initiated no less than five major attempts at getting the city to consider a permit program in the neighborhood east of downtown. This most recent attempt is unprecedented because the city has agreed to a public meeting for the first time, he said.

“I’m going to give you my opinion: I think they are suddenly wanting this conversation because they would like to see (Downtown’s) Next Step go through,” said Karen Brucoli Anesi, president of the Boulevard Neighborhood Association. “They would like to see other projects go through and they don’t want to have pushback.”

Downtown’s Next Step is a plan to make renovations to downtown that the city concedes would reduce parking availability. That would result in more drivers opting to park in the residential neighborhoods east of downtown, Anesi said.

Another Boulevard Neighborhood Association board member, Russ Kimble said the lack of parking near one’s home can result in packages not being delivered, emergency services being delayed, and difficulties for those who are pregnant, elderly or disabled.

“One of my neighbors said that when she was pregnant she would have to walk a couple of blocks, carrying groceries, just to get to her house,” Kimble said.

But not all Durango residents support a permitting program.

Jane Zimmerman, a resident of East Third Avenue for 45 years, said she has watched many proposals for a permitting program come and go, and all have failed.

“Just seems more complicated than it’s worth,” she said. “I’ve never understood why the city didn’t build a parking complex years ago.”

Kathryn Dihle, who commented on the city of Durango’s website, shared the perspective from someone who doesn’t live in the historic district but relies on its parking.

“The only solution that I have been able to find is parking somewhere such as third street in order to continue working at my job,” Dihle said. “What solutions for people that are working in Durango might be put in place if parking now becomes unavailable?”

Jill Mercado, another Third Avenue resident, said a permitting program just seems superfluous and unnecessary.

“Most of the homes on Third Avenue have alleys and parking,” she said. “We want less government and not more.”

Cars park along East Third Avenue on Friday. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Other objections to a permitting program include:

  • What if residents want to throw a party, where will guests park?
  • If they create a permitting program for just a few streets, won’t it just push the problem into other neighborhoods?
  • These are public streets, why shouldn’t the public be allowed to park on them?

Those concerns and others are likely to be discussed at the city’s meeting later this month. But the question at the crux of the problem – Who deserves to park where? – will remain open to interpretation.

Those interviewed for this story said a permitting system would be a Band-Aid solution. Even if a permit program might provided residents east of downtown with much needed relief, potentially at the expense of employees, employers and shoppers, Durango’s parking woes are far from over.

nmetcalf@durangoherald.com



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