Merchants request free holiday parking
In anticipation of the holiday shopping madness fast approaching, the Historic Main Street Business Alliance would like the city to grant them free parking on Main Street Nov. 24-Dec. 17. The merchants have applied for a Master Festival license, and will ask the Park City Council this Thursday with their free parking concept. Many downtown areas allow for free parking during the holiday season, argues HMBA President Ken Davis. Free parking will make Main Street more accessible and contribute to the holiday celebration already planned. "Holiday shopping at Kimball Junction is typically not the same kind of shopping, it is competition for us, and some of the boutiques there do fall in the same category as some of the boutiques on Main Street," Davis explained. "We just thought it would be a nice gesture to our customers if they didn’t have to pay for parking." Close to 25 businesses have signed on to participate in Main Street’s holiday season event, which will feature drawings for prizes at participating businesses. Davis says merchants will ask the city to continue to regulate a time limit on parking on metered spots during the 24-day period, but do away with the parking fee. The idea would be to regulate the Main Street parking like the parking on Swede Alley. Park City Events and Facilities Coordinator Max Paap, writing on behalf of the merchants, reports master festival applicants typically pay for the 230 parking slots on Main Street and near the Wasatch Brew Pub for each day they close the street. The Mustang car show paid $12 per day per spot, which came to $2,760 a day. "The HMBA is justifying their request by stating that they will be compensating for the metered parking with the sales taxes generated by the promotion," he explained. Park City Data and Contract Analyst Brian Andersen, who helps to regulate parking contracts argues it’s less a revenue issue for the city, and more of an enforcement issue. He estimates the city would typically generate $30,000 in paid parking between Nov. 24 and Dec. 17. "It is more difficult to enforce a time limit than a paid space or metered space," he said. "It takes twice the effort to start the clock and end the clock on a timed space." In order to regulate timed spaces, the city must ask its parking regulators to mark tires with chalk. Andersen doubts that the city would hire new employees, so that the staff would simply have more work. It might, in fact, be less convenient for customers, he says. "The reasons for metered parking is to regulate parking through a payment system to keep parking accessible, so that it’s not all parked-up with long-term parkers who may not be a prime customer," Andersen explained. "We try to take a customer-first approach so we can provide premier parking for customers." According to Andersen, the city has never given customers free parking, though it has relaxed some of the regulations in conjunction with past events like Santa Claus’ arrival on Town Lift. Andersen will join Paap at the council meeting Thursday to present his perspective. Invariably, it is not up to him, however, it is up to the city to decide. Whether or not the holiday shopping season will mean complimentary parking, Davis expects other aspects of the street-wide event will take place as planned to highlight Old Town as a holiday shopping destination this winter. Discussion on the Master Festival License for the Historic Main Street Business Alliance’s holiday shopping promotion will begin at 5:10 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 10, during the work session of the Park City Council in the council’s chambers at 445 Marsac Avenue. The council’s regular session will begin at 6 p.m.
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