SIOUX CITY — A plethora of new options presented by Downtown Partners convinced most members of the Sioux City Council to reconsider an ordinance aimed at resolving downtown parking woes.
Ragen Cote, executive director of Downtown Partners — a nonprofit dedicated to improving Sioux City’s central hub — offered the alternatives to the council when it met Monday for its regular meeting.
Cote said her organization developed the suggestions alongside downtown business and property owners, residents, city officials and ABM Parking Services.
That committee has been developing its plan since June after city officials asked Downtown Partners to help ease parking concerns shortly after it was announced that a five-story Marriott hotel was going to be built over a large free parking lot on Fourth Street.
When the council met last Monday, it approved the first reading of an ordinance that would make the first hour of parking in the city's ramps free.
Rather than making the first hour of parking in the city’s ramps free, one of Cote's solutions was to add parking meters to meterless areas around the Promenade movie theater and creating drop-off zones. She noted the meters would help with the consistency issues in downtown where most areas are metered.
Another change she suggested was to keep the stop-arms down at the parking ramps. People who left after 5 p.m. would pay their fees up to 5 p.m., and people who took tickets after that time wouldn’t be charged, so long as they left the ramp before meter enforcement hours began the following day.
A fix specific to the Heritage Parking Ramp was to convert the Jackson and Jones street openings to enter/exit spots to ease congestion concerns. Currently, Jackson is an exit-only area and Jones is an entrance-only area.
After a lengthy dialogue involving the council, Cote, and Public Works director Dave Carney, Councilman Alex Watters suggested the city’s Parking and Skywalk System Board of Trustees review Downtown Partners' proposals when it meets Wednesday and bring a recommendation to the council when it meets Aug. 21.
Watters' motion was approved 4-1 with Mayor Bob Scott casting the lone “no" vote. During and after the meeting, Scott emphasized downtown has way too much parking capacity as is.
He also noted if the city tried Downtown Partners' suggestions on a trial basis, which is what the organization recommended, he doesn’t see it doing much to increase retail foot traffic because of the limited store operating hours and the prevalence of online shopping. He also was concerned with the potential cost to taxpayers who already subsidize expenses at the city's parking ramps.
After the meeting, Cote, who is a member of the Parking and Skywalk trust, said she hopes that when the group meets again Wednesday it can agree on a recommendation to bring to the city Monday.
“I'll take this to them again as well," she said. "They haven't seen the cost to be fair — they did see the letter — but maybe from there we can look through that and dig a little deeper and hopefully come back next week."