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Town’s planning commission recommends against permanent parking area at Town Park


On May 14, the Pagosa Springs Planning Commission voiced opposition to the idea of installing a new permanent parking lot in a section of Town Park. 

Town staff has floated the idea for a potential parking lot, near the athletic field, to accommodate for the loss of parking downtown during Colorado Department of Transportation’s (CDOT’s) main street reconstruction project.

At the meeting, Community Development Director James Dickhoff explained that there are currently about 288 parking spaces between 1st and 8th streets, adding that “we don’t know how many are gonna be impacted” by CDOT’s construction project.

He stated that the town’s search for alternative parking spaces — including the idea of installing a parking lot at Town Park — is part and parcel of the town planning for “a worst-case scenario,” in which most, or all, of the downtown parking is eliminated during construction. 

At several public information sessions, CDOT representatives have warned that they cannot promise that parking will be preserved in the downtown area during the construction, with business owners expressing concern that a lack of downtown parking will negatively impact their businesses, especially during the busy tourist season. 

At the April 23 meeting, the planning commission expressed its desire to be more involved with the parking issue during the CDOT construction, with Dickhoff bringing, to the most recent meeting, a prepared list of potential parking lots for the commissioners to consider.

Ultimately, the Pagosa Springs Town Council will decide which parking areas to pursue, while also providing the funding to install the lots, but the planning commission’s role would be to make a formal recommendation to the council on what parking areas it prefers.

Dickhoff explained to the planning commission that a parking agreement between the town and the library board has already been approved to use the vacant property west of the library to accommodate approximately 50 to 60 public parking spaces. 

This lot is estimated to cost the town $12,000 for additional gravel and signage, and it “has an existing vehicular access from Hwy 160 and is easily accessible for pedestrians with the adjacent trail and sidewalk connectivity,” an agenda document on the matter states.

Dickhoff explained that he thinks that the library lot would best be utilized by downtown businesses for “remote” employee parking during the CDOT construction project.

The library and the proposed Town Park lots were the largest and most convenient of the 10 parking areas being considered by town staff, and would make up for almost half of the total spaces that would be lost in the worst-case-scenario situation, Dickhoff explained.

Another large lot being considered, which could accommodate up to 120 parking spaces “easily,” Dickhoff explained, would be the newly acquired town-owned property near Tractor Supply, the Goodman property, but this site is not ideal because of its inconvenient location. 

This left the Town Park location — as well as a few smaller locations, such as an idea to restripe Hot Springs Boulevard to create up to 15 spaces of on-street parking — as the most convenient spot to make up for the lost parking during the CDOT construction, according to Dickhoff. 

He noted that the lot being considered would be placed in the “unused,” western corner of the Town Park athletic field and could accommodate 60 to 70 parking spaces. 

He explained it would be a “permanent” parking lot, rather than a temporary one, because of the heavy investment from the town to install the lot. 

He added that a gravel lot would cost the town approximately $100,000 and a fully developed lot might cost upward of $200,000.

However, comments from both the planning commissioners and the public signaled that installing a permanent parking lot at Town Park is an unpopular idea. 

Pagosa Springs Middle School Principal Chris Hinger voiced his opposition to the idea, saying, “I’m here to have a voice for the 500 students that are on the corner of main street, right there, that don’t really have a voice and aren’t” going to attend meetings like this.

“We use that Town Park field for our field space,” he said, adding that the middle school has “very limited space” on the school’s property. 

“Once you pave it and make it parking, you don’t get that back,” he said, adding, “Ideas like this might need to just pause ... Let’s not take what I consider to be one of the best centerpieces of our town and pave it. If for no other reason, for the kids,” he said. 

Dickhoff explained that the school’s use of the field would not be impinged if the parking lot were installed, again describing the area where the parking lot would go as an “unused” corner of the park and explaining that the town has long contemplated a parking area there. 

Planning commissioner Chris Pitcher said, “I don’t think we should take the park for parking,” adding that preserving “open space” is a major priority of the town. 

Planning commissioner Chad Hodges suggested that putting “a parking lot in a green space is never a good idea.”

Planning commissioners Julie Gurule and Kristen McCollam wondered if the lot could be scaled down to preserve more of the green space of the park. 

Dickhoff passed the question on to Mike Davis of Davis Engineering, who designed a sketch plan for the parking area. 

Davis said, “We can do whatever the town wants,” but added that a smaller lot might require a “dead-end parking lot” and he would not recommend that. 

If the town wants to do that, “that’s fine, but it’s just not gonna be too fun during some really busy time when additional cars are coming in and other cars are trying to back out because there’s no place to park,” he said.

He then explained the need for it to be a loop. 

“To make it a true two-way parking lot, we need the ability to make that a loop,” he said, later adding that there’s a way to keep it a loop while preserving more green space, but “you’d probably lose 10 or so spaces ... if you did something like that.” 

Gurule asked why the town is so focused on Town Park, asking if that is the “priority” lot “that the town was looking at.” 

Dickhoff answered that staff just wanted “to bring forward some concepts” to see “if there’s even an appetite for this.” 

He explained that the Town Park lot “is the closest one to main street. All of the other ones are gonna be a little bit of a walk, adding that “it would have quite a bit of parking capability” compared to some of the others on the list of potential spots. 

Pitcher later said, “We should hold our open space and our parks to a higher level than allowing for parking lots,” recommending alternative sites for parking, such as the lot by the old courthouse and the vacant property at U.S. 160 and 1st Street.

Dickhoff explained that the property owners of these locations were going to charge the town way too much, with the offer for parking at the old courthouse lot costing $200,000 a year for the town to lease that particular lot. 

“The ... lot at 1st and the highway would be a similar story,” he said, and the investors who own the property want to charge “a market rate,” which is $10 per space per day. 

However, later in the meeting, during public comment, Rosanna Dufour, who sits on the Main Street Advisory Board and the task force committee formed to solve the parking issue, suggested that the planning commissioners had not heard the full picture of the parking situation.

She explained that the parking task force was tasked with finding “temporary, alternative parking,” during the main street reconstruction project, adding that at a joint town/county work session she got the impression that the most “viable opinion was to find remote parking.” 

“One thing I’d like to be clear on is that we were tasked with temporary parking, and so the Town Park to be included under the heading of [the main street] reconstruction is not really accurate or appropriate, because that’s a permanent structure,” she said. 

She added that, as a downtown business owner, she understands the need for parking, but that she did not think that permanent parking was part of the task force’s mandate.

She also suggested a very different list of potential parking areas, which included The Springs Resort, the old courthouse and BWD Construction, all of which were not included on the town’s list of potential sites presented to the commission at the meeting. 

She noted that she’s been in contact with the current owner of the lot next to the old courthouse, and “he’s willing to discuss a lease with entities other than the town” about a lower price than the one quoted by Dickhoff earlier in the meeting.

She also added that conversations with The Springs Resort revealed that it is “strongly” against parallel parking on Hot Springs Boulevard, which would reduce the turn lane into the resort for only a few parking spaces. 

“There are a lot of options out there,” she added. 

Resident Bill Hudson said, “I would hate to see the park used forever as parking,” adding that not as much parking downtown may be needed as some think during the construction. 

When opened back up to the planning commission, Pitcher said, “I’m gonna push back against the Town Park idea ... we need to stay away from that as an option.”

He added, “This is gonna be going in front of the town council, and we’d like to forward any recommendations in the form of a formal motion.”

Ultimately, it was motioned for a recommendation that neither Town Park nor Hot Springs Boulevard (for parallel street parking) should be used for additional parking. 

McCollam added to the motion a recommendation that the ideas of the town staff and the parking task force should be combined into one before the town council considers the issue. 

“Whatever is on” Dufour’s “list, should be inclusive of James’ [Dickhoff’s] list, and James’ should include” Dufour’s, “because that’s giving town council the whole picture,” she said.

The formal motion recommended against Town Park and Hot Springs Boulevard restriping while also recommending further coordination with the parking task force for a consolidated list of parking options for the town council to consider. 

The motion was seconded and passed unanimously by the commission.