From today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
Round-table discussion brings stakeholders together to share ideas, potential solutions
The Pullman Planning Commission mixed things up Wednesday, opting for a round-table discussion to fuel solutions to the city's downtown parking issue.
Stakeholders in the downtown area - including business owners, residents and developers - led the conversation, which was designed to create more open dialogue than has been possible at the commission's testimony-based public meetings in the past.
"I think we've all found out we're on the same team and want something good for Pullman," Commission Chairman Stephen Garl said. "Where it all shakes out, I can't say."
The City Council set a March deadline for the commission to recommend formal solutions to the parking issue. The council voiced a desire for more definitive ideas after it was presented in December with broad short-term suggestions such as better identification of public parking areas, the possibility of a downtown residential parking permit program, and increased enforcement to discourage long-term parking.
The downtown area - bordered roughly by State Street to the west, Spring Street to the east, Whitman Street to the north and McKenzie Street to the south - is in the city's central business zone.
Parking currently is not mandated with downtown development, even if it includes living space - an issue some have said creates competition for spots between downtown retail customers and residents.
Wednesday's meeting yielded solutions ranging from increased parking enforcement by police to asking the public for money to create a long-term parking structure. The group also discussed how to better utilize a Washington State University parking lot near Reaney Park, decreasing the central business zone and extending two-hour parking limits to three hours.
City Planner Pete Dickinson said the committee may have rehashed some of the same ideas, but the meeting garnered more of a consensus and a desire to remedy the parking issue with a long-term plan before it escalates.
"It shows that all are in understanding," he said. "It was good to get them all in the same room."
Dickinson said the commission is free to suggest any solutions it sees fit, but he urged members to address one issue in particular. In past meetings, the commission has debated altering city code to mandate new residential development in the district provide off-street parking.
Such a move would ensure that residents living in the downtown area have some off-street parking for their vehicles.
The City Council also has discussed the issue at length, and Dickinson said the commission should formally give its opinion regarding a possible code change.
"That's something ... I will insist upon. That's been the elephant in the room," Dickinson said. "It'll be a yes or no, but it'll have to be explained."
The commission is expected to revisit the issue Feb. 27. Garl said commission members and the public are encouraged to take the next several weeks to let the issues digest, and then bring solutions to the table. The group will then reconvene and begin to discuss feasible solutions.
"The solution will be a multi-set of suggestions to be considered," he said. "There is no silver bullet."