Stillwater develops committee to study parking issues

·3 min read

Aug. 18—The City of Stillwater is developing committee to study parking in three core business districts: Campus Corner, the Strip and downtown.

Residents have the opportunity to serve on that committee, which will also include business owners from the areas. An application can be found at stillwater.org by searching under "Boards and Committees." Applications are due by Monday.

Parking in downtown, Campus Corner and on the Strip has been an ongoing issue, both for their businesses and the customers they serve.

Chief Performance Innovation Officer Brady Moore said he was recently contacted by merchants from all three business districts who asked for help with parking issues affecting their businesses.

After hearing their concerns, city staff began looking at different parking management solutions. They visited Lawrence, Kansas, a college town about twice the size of Stillwater, that shares many of the same characteristics.

Lawrence had implemented a new parking management system in 2021, Moore said, and city staff visited the town to see the changes it made in its core district near the University of Kansas.

Moore said he's been warned that parking is an issue that gets a strong public reaction. It's a dynamic process and cities have to come up with solutions that serve both community members and businesses as change happens.

"As city management, we understand the most effective change is citizen-led change," Moore said. "As I mentioned before, we've already been contacted by these businesses ... They want help and we want to build on that."

City staff wants the committee to review issues related to public parking like making changes to timed parking, adding on-street parking, paid parking options, the possibilities of new parking structures, designated employee parking, designated parking for residents and designated areas for commercial vehicles. They might also look at suggestions for design in public areas.

The goal is to focus on quick action instead of a drawn-out process.

Moore said the city is seeing a lot of growth south of Ninth Avenue and he thinks there will be more with Block 34 built out.

"So we want to come back to you with recommendations for each item as it comes up, so we can start to take action on some things ... we'll make some mistakes and measure the result and we'll make adjustments," he said. "... we've just got to start somewhere."

Vice Mayor Alane Zannotti said as a former downtown business owner she agrees it's important for business owners to have a stake in it. She liked the focus on quick action instead of a lengthy study.

Mayor Will Joyce called it a necessary step forward and said there will be different options in different places. He said the city has done parking studies over the years that generated a lot of data but little action.

It will still be important to include the data gathered through all those studies into the conversation, Councilor Amy Dzialowski, whose day job is urban planning, said. Sometimes perceptions and anecdotal descriptions of challenges don't line up with the data.

Joyce said he hopes previous assumptions about what can be done will be challenged in the process.

"There's a lot of challenges when it comes to parking so we've got to try some different solutions that haven't been tried before," he said.