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Paid parking downtown raises concerns for Bozeman business owners

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Parking spaces are becoming more and more scarce in downtown Bozeman. The City of Bozeman is now looking at paid parking downtown, and that paid parking could pay for a new downtown parking garage.

“We still plan to recommend a second garage; what we have heard from people is there is a need for more parking,” said Mike Veselik, economic development program manager.

The city has been holding community sessions talking with downtown businesses on how parking might affect them and their employees.

“We are having five community engagement sessions really focused on the downtown community,” Veselik said.

The concern from one downtown business owner is how that might deter locals.

“I don't think that we should do paid parking. I think that would really prevent our local people from coming downtown,” said Amy Kirkland, owner of Altitude Gallery.

The worry for CEO of Off the Beaten Path, Cory Lawrence, is that the city is jumping the gun on paid parking.

“I’d sure love to see us seek out solutions to supply first,” Lawrence said.

The city says that it will still seek out other ways to encourage people to come downtown.

“We also will continue to pursue supporting multi-modal transportation and improving pedestrian [and] bike infrastructure,” said Veselik.

Downtown employees have been at the center of discussion.

“The need for an employee parking permit program where employees will park if parking were to change downtown,” Veselik said.

Kirkland says she does have a permit already and is lucky that her employees are within walking distance. Lawrence, on the other hand, says it's not the case for his employees.

"We need to address how we can support our employees in their ability to park in proximity to where they work,” he said. “If we end up in a position where paid parking is deemed necessary, we have already exhausted all of our other options."

The city is still asking the public for comments. If you are interested, those can be made on the website Engage Bozeman: https://engage.bozeman.net/downtown-parking