Midtown parking to be studied

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Parked cars line Fourth Street looking south Tuesday from Montana Avenue. (LOREN BENOIT/Press)

Street parking is prime, parking lots are next in line and garage parking is last on the list of where motorists like to keep their cars when they are shopping or dining.

Where people want to park is something Annaka Norris will consider as she compiles data over the next six weeks for a midtown parking study meant to help the city of Coeur d’Alene manage parking in a popular area of town.

Norris, of Rich & Associates, the consultant responsible for a 2016 downtown parking study, is back in Coeur d’Alene this week to learn about parking habits, hurdles and highlights faced by motorists seeking a parking spot in midtown.

At a Tuesday meeting, Norris heard from property owners who want to put the brakes on drivers’ bad habits.

“I’ve been in my house 27 years, and it’s ridiculous,” said Yvonne Bright of East Reid Avenue. “I have a driveway, but they just block it.”

Bright was among about 35 people to attend the 6 p.m. meeting at the Midtown Meeting Center that drew business and homeowners from a core 9-block section of midtown encompassing Third, Fourth and Fifth streets between Harrison and Foster avenues.

Bright listened as Norris gave an overview of the parking study and when it was time to gather comments, she was the first to chime in.

One of the problems in midtown, Bright said, was that businesses were allowed to open without having adequate parking for customers.

“They are constantly parking in front of my house,” she said. “I have to park down the street.”

Zoning — in the case of midtown much of the zoning doesn’t require businesses to take parking into consideration — is one of the issues Norris will track.

Most of the residents said business owners were accommodating and easy to work with, but their clientele, their employees and sometimes their delivery trucks caused parking issues.

Autumn Basso, the owner of The Bluebird Cafe, agreed deliveries caused jams, and efforts to manage their arrival don’t often alleviate the problem.

Her trucks can’t go in the alley because of low power or communication lines, and the alleys aren’t plowed in the winter.

“We try to be respectful of our neighbors,” she said.

On his side of the core area, said David Townsend, it’s boats and RVs that cause traffic and parking issues.

“Unless you want to become a constant complainer, they don’t get moved,” Townsend said.

Over the next several weeks, Norris will take inventory, consider codes, violations, safety issues, property ownership, population and growth models. She will catalog parking lots that sit idle while the streets jam up, and start on a list of recommendations that she already mulled, she said, after hearing comments, and walking the neighborhoods.

Church parking and grocery store parking lots, the lots of businesses closed after 5 p.m., and shuttered buildings — once a dialogue is established with their owners — could relieve after-hour parking, she said. She also noticed that a couple midtown lots open to the public are rarely used.

In addition, she said, the more pedestrians are drawn to midtown, the more people will begin to think of it as a place within walking distance from a parking spot a couple blocks away — as opposed to wanting to park in a nearby street. Having more pedestrians regulates traffic speed.

“It slows people down,” she said. “Along Fourth Street there are some real good walkway and pedestrian crossings.”

The $8,500 study, funded by ignite cda, should be completed before Sept. 1.

“We’ll figure out how much parking is needed, block by block,” Norris said. “How we can make it fit, how we can make it work.”

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