BOZEMAN — The Bozeman City Commission voted 3-2 in favor of a Downtown Parking Management District on Monday night.
“We were having a conversation about developing a tool to put in our toolbox to help us resolve the issue of parking and the impacts that our growing and vibrant downtown has on the neighborhoods,” said Deputy Mayor Cyndy Andrus.
The Downtown Parking Management District would create an area where the Parking Commission has the authority to establish Parking Benefit Zones.
According to city staff, the Parking Benefit Zones would only be in downtown neighborhoods that have a parking problem.
“The zones are intended to be very small and very strategic. And the thing we have to remember is, the zones are only going to be created in areas that already have less than 15% parking supply available,” said parking manager Ed Meece with the City of Bozeman.
Residents would have the first shot at buying a parking permit in the zone. Commuters and people that work downtown could buy the permits at a more expensive rate.
On Monday night, staff recommended having the permits be required 24 hours a day for parking, and homes be limited to two permits per household.
Dozens of residents and business owners waited in line to express their discontent with the idea of regulating on-street parking downtown.
Some residents felt limiting the number of permits per household disproportionately affected lower income renters, with multiple residents per dwelling.
But much of the frustration came from a deeper place.
“We’re just being asked to pay for parking for a lot of the high rises downtown, said Stewart Mitchell, a resident of Downtown Bozeman.
During public comment, residents blamed the commission for not taking into account the increase in parking congestion new hotels and high-rise developments near the core would bring.
“There was very poor planning as far as where these high-rises go. And the worst part of the planning is they weren’t required to provide enough parking for each unit,” said Mitchell.
While acknowledging frustration, the deputy mayor said it was a totally different issue.
“Nothing has been built in the downtown that has not followed the code,” said Andrus.
“And if we need to change the code, that is a different, that is a different conversation than what we were having last night.”
But many residents, including actress Glenn Close, expressed their frustration, saying their voices weren’t being heard.
“I think that a lot of us in communities feel that the people that have the power don’t listen,” said Close.
The city ordinance passed with an additional amendment added by Commissioner Terry Cunningham on Monday night.
The amendment would ensure residents in a parking-congested neighborhood that their input and opinion would be weighed into the decision of the Parking Commission before establishing a permit zone.
Late Monday night, Mayor Mehl assured the crowd that this was a tool to prioritize parking for residents, and it was likely this would not go into affect for some time.