After years of debate and planning, city officials have approved a permitted parking district for the residential neighborhood around Flathead High School.
The Kalispell City Council on Monday voted 5-2 in favor of a 15-block parking district that will allow students and staff from the high school to purchase passes along with residents for the academic year.
Mayor Mark Johnson supported the ordinance along with councilors Tim Kluesner, Jim Atkinson, Sandy Carlson and Kari Gabriel. Councilors Wayne Saverud and Chad Graham were opposed. Councilor Phil Guiffrida was absent and councilor Rod Kuntz recused himself because of his past involvement in neighborhood efforts to develop the district. The ordinance passed on a first reading and must be approved again in a second reading before final passage.
The district, known as the Westside Neighborhood Parking Management Zone, will feature parking restrictions for Second Avenue West between Sixth and Ninth streets west; Third Avenue West between Fifth and Ninth streets west; Fourth Avenue West between Eighth and Ninth streets west; and all streets between Fourth Avenue and Second Avenue West.
»»» Click here to watch video from Monday’s council meeting.
The district will be in effect during the school year from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. The cost of the permits will be determined at a later date by the city council; residents have asked for a cost of $10 each. City staff have identified 240 on-street parking spaces within the district.
Each resident in the district will receive two free parking passes. Residents, students and staff can purchase an unlimited number of passes. A pass will allow for parking but not ensure a space. Students and staff with permits will be limited to one side of each street or avenue in the zone each school year, and the zones will rotate each year.
The district has been debated among school administrators, residents and city planners for over two years in an effort to regulate parking in an area some say is heavily congested because of the two schools.
Kalispell Planning Director Tom Jentz said the congestion has impacted the social makeup of the neighborhood and led to a higher number of homes being rented, 56 percent, compared to the city average of 33 percent. Upwards of 250 parking spaces are lacking between the two schools, according to city data. A previous poll of residents found 97 percent were in favor of addressing the problem.
The estimated cost to implement the district is $20,000, according to city staff.
The approved district was different than previous proposals, including an alternative that sought a five-block district that would exclude students and staff from purchasing passes.
Some councilors believed excluding students from purchasing passes would simply push the problem outward into other streets and possibly create safety hazards.
Others disagreed, saying the district should take a more aggressive approach to solving the dearth of parking.
“It seems to me we’re not going to solve the west side parking problem by diluting the spaces available by pushing them farther out or limiting them in any other way. The solution is to try to create new spaces,” Saverud said.
The school district is adding 30-35 new spaces at Elrod Elementary School and 20-25 spaces at Flathead this summer.
After the latest discussion spanned nearly two hours, a majority of councilors felt some type of action needed to be taken following years of planning.
“I think we need to act on something at this point in time and give the residents an idea what the next year may look like,” Johnson said.
“Let’s try something,” Kluesner said. “Let’s see if it works.”
Correction: The number of passes available to students and staff is not limited to 100, as previously reported.