City residents will have a chance to weigh-in on the city’s parking study during a special public hearing before the Lake Geneva Parking Commission scheduled for 5 p.m. Oct. 7 in the council chambers at city hall.
The public hearing will precede the Lake Geneva City Council’s Committee of the Whole.
Attending the hearing and the committee of the whole meeting will be staff from Rich & Associates, Southfield, Mich., which did the study.
The committee of the whole meeting will allow city council members to also weigh in on the study before they receive the report as the city council and decide whether to follow its recommendations.
On Sept. 18, the parking commission made one last review of the preliminary parking study that included a conference call with Annaka Norris of Rich & Associates.
During the call, Norris clarified that Rich is recommending that two-hour limited parking be imposed only on a few key areas within the city’s business district, and not for the entire downtown.
The commission had said that it would not support a return to two-hour parking downtown. The limit now is five hours.
Mayor Jim Connors, who attended the meeting, noted that the report indicated some parking lots are mostly empty, even during peak hours.
However, those lots and parking spaces are privately owned.
According to the preliminary study, while city-owned lots are averaging 80 to 85 percent full, during peak hours during the tourist season, nearby private lots are registering about 28 percent full.
Norris suggested the city might negotiate with private lot owners to find a way to get at that additional parking space when the private owners and their businesses are not using the spaces.
While that might sound like a good idea, Alderwoman Sarah Hill, the council’s representative on the parking commission, warned it might affect the city’s bottom line.
Visitors would park in the private spots before going to the pay parking, Hill said. That might result in lower revenues for the city, she said.
Although the Rich report recommends construction of a parking structure, that was not addressed by the commissioners.
Instead, they continued to focus on creating more parking in city streets and in city lots.
The city would gain about two dozen stalls in the Sage Street lot with a reconfiguration that would also eliminate bus and trailer parking there, said Connors. Buses and trailers could be sent to the lot on South Lake Shore Drive near the McDonald’s restaurant.
And parking in front of the former Geneva Theater is still on the table.
Connors said the city needs to determine whether the owner intends to use the building as a theater.
If not, parking may be reinstalled there.
Connors said the city is also continuing to study adding parking by changing some streets from parallel to angle parking. However, streets must meet a minimum width before the city will consider angle parking, he said.
In other business:
n The commission is looking into promotions and finding ways to make parking enforcement kinder and gentler.
Discussed was creation of a prepaid parking card, which would allow residents to pay for parking in advance.
The parking kiosks would read the card like a credit card.
The commission is also researching the use of coupons and parking validation by merchants to discount the cost of parking.
As a way to soften the image of the city’s parking enforcement (sometimes referred to as “parking Nazis” in the survey conducted by Rich & Associates this summer), the commission also talked about creating “courtesy tickets.”
The tickets would be issued to one license plate number per year as a notice that a car is overparked, but no fine will be issued.
n Members of the city’s Business Improvement District are asking for free parking on Maxwell Street Days, which will fall on Aug. 22-24 next year.
In the past, the parking meters were working, but enforcement wasn’t strict, Connors said.
However, business people apparently misunderstood the city’s loose enforcement policy and told customers that parking wasn’t being enforced.
While free parking would clear up communications problems and encourage more people to visit downtown, it comes with a price tag.
Free parking on Maxwell Street Days will cost the city about $24,000 in parking fees, said Hill.
“Parking revenue is an incredibly important revenue stream for us,” she said.
n Even as the city tries to maximize its parking, the parking commission was asked to eliminate four parking spaces in front of the Subway sandwich shop, 647 W. Main St.
Eliminating parking there will lengthen the right turn lane at Center Street and get cars turning right out of the lane of westbound traffic more quickly, Connors said.