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Restaurateurs skeptical about paid parking

JIM POKRANDTSummit Daily News
Summit Daily/Jim Pokrandt Breckenridge elected officials are considering a paid parking plan for the town to help create turnover of parking spaces in the core, many occupied by business owners and employees. The Breckenridge Restaurant Association is not keen on the idea. Once the town council sees a plan on what paid parking would look like, it will give it a yes or no vote.
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BRECKENRIDGE – Restaurateur Eric Mamula is “adamantly” opposed to the town imposing paid parking.It helps that he’s also a town council member. But for the moment, the Downstairs at Eric’s owner sits on the wrong end of a 6-1 vote that has the town pursuing the idea of paid parking.A yes-or-no town council decision will be based a plan being devised by police and public works officials.Town officials know paid parking will be a hard sell to many, and on Tuesday, the Breckenridge Restaurant Association did little to disabuse that notion.”All of the lunch places will lose business because people will go to City Market and Windy City where they could park for free,” Briar Rose owner Roe Schardt said.

Currently, the town charges for wintertime parking in two close-in lots on Park Avenue and restricts parking to two hours on the streets and other lots in the commercial core. Parking enforcement officers chalk tires to catch violators.”People play the go-out-and-move-their-car-every-two-hours game,” town transportation director Jim Benkelman said.The town commissioned a parking study that identifies this issue as a threat to commercial vitality that calls for spots that frequently turn over. The study says the town’s inventory of 1,565 spaces is adequate, but the commercial core spaces should be managed and treated as premium spots for customers.”Employees are no doubt taking up valuable spaces in the downtown core, and we are citing them,” said Police Chief Rick Holman.Restaurant owners said that should the plan be approved, they are worried about where employees would park, if customers could have at least a 15-minute leeway to park for coffee or to-go food and if enforcement would last all year.

Benkelman said that paid parking would not mean individual meters at every spot. The likely concept would mirror Aspen’s where a meter is placed on each side of a block. People pay for time and put a receipt on their dashboard.Locals could buy in-car meters that act like electronic egg timers and then pay for only what time they park.Mamula said paid parking is one more attack on the character of the town.”We are not like Aspen, we are not like Park City, we are not Telluride,” he said, citing other resorts that impose paid parking.Mamula discounted the fear that should the Breckenridge Ski Resort start charging for parking, skiers would swarm into town to park. They would rather pay and be near the planned gondola, he said.

Town officials cite inevitable paid skier parking as a reason for the town to consider paid parking.Mamula also said that if paid parking starts, going year-round with enforcement would be political suicide.”People are going to hang the council for this if we tell them they have to pay to park on Main Street in May when there’s three other cars on the street,” Mamula said.Jim Pokrandt can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 227, or at jpokrandt@summitdaily.com.


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