Will the meter be made …
Breckenridge Town Council’s recent 4-3 straw poll against paid parking proved that – while still a divisive topic – it might be inevitable if current trends continue.Development will be the villain to lead us down the path to parking meters. And time, ultimately, will tell if more paid parking is a detriment or a boon for area businesses.Two developments, which deal heavily with partnerships between the town and the resort, are changing the face of what Breckenridge’s tourists will see – and feel with their wallets – in the upcoming months.The residential developments on peaks 7 and 8 will take away 450 paid parking places, which then will be transplanted closer to the loading point for the future $17 million gondola, $6 million of which the town paid. Soon, the town will have no free skier parking south of City Market, leading to potential negative impacts for both the town and the resort, including:• Tourists will be shuttled away from the town’s core business area;• Some Front Range skiers will use this as a choice to go to other resorts, which supply free parking and a shuttle, the system Breckenridge is abandoning;• Breckenridge will become a less desirable place to live and work.Contrarily, the resort believes paid parking by the gondola will help business owners. For one, people will have money in hand as they park closer to Main Street. And, there are plans to make the connection between the parking lot and Main Street obvious. But with Vail Resorts controlling more retail at the base areas, is it really in the company’s best interest to be driving visitors away from their own commercial areas?The town made a good decision not to pursue the paid parking option at this time, although the most recent changes have brought more weight to the idea than any in the town’s history.The decisions will surface again and they will be divisive, especially as Breckenridge Ski Resort and the town continue to partner on development, and increase the need and value of parking spaces. The process of choosing paid parking or not will work only if the town and its elected officials understand that, for one, Breckenridge is not Aspen, which credits its paid parking system for an increase in business on its Main Street. Aspen is a destination resort for the ultra-wealthy, and not a great spot for Front Range folks to spend a Saturday.And, two, paid parking will drive revenue for the town and the resort, but the divide still remains for the town council – which is adamant on quality of life issues – to bridge: Will more paid parking make our community a better place to live, or will we become more uninhabitable for our full-time residents?
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