Wednesday, January 17, 2024

My 1.16.24 Meeting Summary

Last night the Council discussed two signficant items:

- We approved a new contract with our Police Chief.  This concludes multiple rounds of closed session discussion regarding the details of that agreement.  I am extremely happy where we landed and am grateful for the service of our Police Chief.

- We then discussed a potential parking program near the planned 81 unit Olivia Project downtown.  The Council gave direction to staff to come back with an agenda item to establish an ad-hoc committee to discuss potential solutions or actions that we could take regarding the impact excessive parking may create.  

While I think the Council ended up in the right place, how we got there left a lot of room for improvement.  Initially Staff recommended that no action be taken.  Further, if any action were to be taken, it would be costly, involve hiring more people, purchasing a vehicle, hiring an outside consultant, perform City wide analysis, and tie our hands for future activities.  While these are possible outcomes, they are far from the only ones, and not even highly likely ones.  Rather than present options and elicit discussion on policy decisions, the staff report seemed designed to push towards the desired result of taking no action. 

There was widespread agreement and acknowledgement that if the 81 units are built, it will result in a parking problem.  This problem would most directly be borne by the immediately surrounding areas in Stranahan.  But when faced with concern from residents that has persisted unaddressed for years, staff's recommendation was to do nothing.  It is true that there isn't a specific problem at this very moment, but the challenge that has been identified is a question of when, not if.

The Staff report contemplated hiring 2 additional employees, making the cost of a parking program to be approximately $275K/year in addition to hiring an outside parking consultant at $50-$75K.  This seemed odd as when we implemented the parking program at Regency none of these costs were incurred.  In fact, the only out of pocket cost borne by the City for the Regency program was the cost of installing signage, approximately $750 per sign.  It's unclear why an option similar to what already exists was not presented.

During staff presentation, there was also the implication that if we were to implement a parking program, there would need to be city wide analysis which meant hiring consultants.  I questioned that.  The problem that we are trying to address is not the same at the far west end of town as it would be right in the nearby neighborhoods.  It seemed artificially burdensome to saddle a discreet program for a discreet area with an entire city of administrative bloat.  We should be focused on the problem we are trying to solve, not inflate the scenario to make it unwieldy.

Related to the push for a city wide effort was the idea that if we moved forward in this area that the City would be obligated to move forward in other areas.  This is not so - the Council always has discretion when it comes to matters of parking on City streets.  If there were known issues that existed in other areas, or were expected to exist, then certainly the Council should take action.  And that is what moving this issue forward would do.  It does not create any obligation to take action beyond what was being discussed.

In considering possible solutions, I made a suggestion that a relatively few number of signs restricting street parking could be placed at the entrance of Stranahan.  For our Downtown area, a small number of signs could be posted to prohibit overnight parking.  These could even be established to be effective at a date in the future.  This way, our residents know that their concerns will be addressed without incurring an exorbitant cost to the City.  This is only one possible solution however.  

When the ad hoc committee is constituted more discussion will be had and the Council determine the next course of action.