Parking in Ketchum

Ketchum is implementing a revised pilot program that changes regulations for parking in the downtown core during winter and early-spring months.

Ketchum citizens and visitors to the city will be able to park overnight this winter in two select locations in the downtown core, and will likely have an easier path to retrieving their car or truck if they violate parking regulations and their vehicle is towed.

The City Council on Monday unanimously approved an ordinance to establish new winter-season parking regulations in the city. The ordinance—written to be in effect from Nov. 1 to May 1—broadens a year-old pilot program designed to decrease instances of driving under the influence and lessen the inconvenience and financial impact to violators.

“I think being proactive on this is a good idea,” Councilman Jim Slanetz said.

The parking regulations proposed to the City Council on Monday were crafted by city staff, with input from the Ketchum Traffic Authority, a five-member panel of city officials.

City code has prohibited overnight parking in the downtown core in the winter to allow the Streets Department to efficiently clear snow. Generally, vehicles in violation of the restrictions were towed to an impound lot and owners were charged a $250 fee and $50 a day for impound storage, a city staff report states. The city has towed an average of 50-60 vehicles per winter, the report states.

The action taken by the council Monday continues the pilot program implemented last year and adds new regulations that expand the program. The program now establishes two locations where motorists can legally park overnight—specifically from 2-7 a.m.—and designates two locations in the city center where vehicles that are towed can be retrieved more easily than if they were towed to an impound lot, as they were in the past.

One major goal of the regulations is to allow limited overnight parking to discourage people who are or might be over the legal limit for alcohol consumption from feeling compelled to drive home because they fear the consequences of having their vehicle towed and being assessed a significant fine.

“It’s a balancing act,” Mayor Neil Bradshaw said.

The pilot program implemented last year:

• Designated the city’s public parking lot on Washington Avenue between First and Second streets as an approved site for overnight parking. The city implemented an odd-even system that permits overnight parking on alternating sides of the lot. Motorists can park for up to three hours for free, with additional hours costing 25 cents each. Motorists can also buy permits for longer time periods.

• Established First Avenue between River Street and First Street as a tow area for vehicles parked on the wrong side of odd-even designations in the Washington Avenue lot.

The approved expansion:

• Discontinues the practice of towing vehicles to the south end of First Avenue and instead establishes Fifth Street, between East Avenue and Walnut Avenue, as a receiver site for vehicles towed in violation of overnight-parking regulations. Violators will have to pay a $90 tow fee and a $40 parking ticket.

• Designates Second Avenue—between Fifth and Sixth streets, next to the post office—as a permitted location for overnight parking, as well a receiver site for additional towed vehicles, if necessary.

Bradshaw said the city tows an average of three to six vehicles per significant snowstorm.

The draft ordinance proposed to the City Council on Monday called for establishing First Avenue between Fifth and Sixth streets as an overnight parking zone—not Second Avenue. In addition, the center portion of that block would serve as the designated tow relocation area for the city on the west side of Main Street.

After taking public comment and discussing the plan, City Council members decided to establish Second Avenue as the overnight parking zone and receiver site.

Remington Novak, a representative of the KETCH 1 and KETCH 2 apartments on First Avenue between Fifth and Sixth streets, said he supports efforts to establish overnight parking in the neighborhood.

The two recently constructed apartment buildings—which Novak said will be full this winter, with tenants working jobs that include nurse, teacher and electrician—were not required by the city to have on-site parking.

Pam Morris, publisher of the Idaho Mountain Express, which is across First Avenue from the KETCH apartments, questioned whether the proposed special designation on First Avenue would serve the city’s goals.

“That block is already clogged with cars,” she said.

Councilwoman Amanda Breen said she was hesitant to establish the block on First Avenue as an overnight parking zone without additional input from the public or discussion.

“That block is a bit controversial because of the KETCH buildings there,” she said.

Slanetz said he favored the Second Avenue site.

As part of the approved plan, the city will track the number of DUI violations, the level of satisfaction among residents and business operators, the impact on snow removal and the financial impact to the city. In addition, city officials will distribute educational leaflets that outline the regulations.

Elements of the ongoing pilot program are subject to change, city officials noted.

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