Neighborhoods could decide to charge for on-street parking soon after a La Crosse committee Tuesday voted in favor of a new program proponents call a “grassroots effort.”
If passed by the La Crosse Common Council next week, the ordinance would allow residential areas to create “parking benefit districts,” where residents — including both homeowners and renters — would be able to decide to charge for parking within a designated area and use those funds for neighborhood improvements or services.
“It’s a grassroots ordinance, and that’s what the parking benefit districts would be as well,” said Jennifer Trost, who represents the Holy Trinity-Longfellow Neighborhood Association on the La Crosse Neighborhood Revitalization Commission.
It gives neighborhoods the opportunity to nudge people into being more conscious of when they choose to park and the impacts that has.
“We think that land use has a lot of tradeoffs, and nudging people to make different choices is the way to go,” Trost said.
La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat was fully on board, saying that neighborhoods could use funding from paid on-street parking to address things from street lights and sidewalk improvements to landscaping or clean-up efforts.
“I would wholeheartedly agree that this is a grassroots effort to come forward with a program that would eventually benefit neighborhoods,” Kabat said.
The ordinance wouldn’t require any parking benefit districts, rather it would put the framework in place should the people who live in specific neighborhoods decide it’s the right thing for them.
“It’s creating the enabling legislation so it’s still going to be up to specific neighborhoods to actually form one,” Trost said.
The NRC spent much of last year hammering out the details of the ordinance before submitting it to the city’s legal department for review; however, parking has been on neighbors’ minds for several years after a Wisconsin Department of Transportation plan got them talking about ways to make the city less centered on cars.
“This is a way to make the cost of parking clear to visitors. This is a way to manage parking availability by using market pricing to regulate the supply of parking,” Trost said.
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The idea behind the legislation is to share the costs of providing parking with not only property owners, but also visitors to specific areas.
“This is a way for neighborhoods to keep some control of the streets in their neighborhoods, and pass on some of that burden,” Trost said.
It helps offset the problems that the parking crunch causes for people who live in those neighborhoods, as well.
“You think about the impacts that that parking has on the neighborhoods. This is intended to be a way that the neighborhoods can come up with a plan and realize benefits from the on-street parking charges that are part of this,” Kabat said.
Under the proposed ordinance, any neighborhood association representative, city elected official, or resident or property owner within the proposed district could apply for the creation of a parking benefit district.
The idea is that proponents can come up with a plan, figure out what improvements they want and what they want the boundaries to be, then bring that detailed plan to the city’s parking utility. The ordinance would require the request to go to the Board of Public Works and then before the public in a community meeting noticed to property owners within 500 feet of the proposed district and neighborhood associations.
The creation of the district would ultimately be up to the board and La Crosse Common Council.
“There are a fair number of logistics that need to be worked out,” Trost added.