Parking concerns discussed between community leaders, Downtown Parking Alliance

Platteville’s Downtown Parking Alliance expressed their frustrations with community officials during a meeting Tuesday evening.

“I feel like I am hitting a brick wall,” said Lori Erschen-Bahr, co-owner of Erschen’s Florist. “I don’t understand why the brick wall is there. I have been coming to (City Council) meetings since March. I stopped counting how many (meetings) at 20. I shouldn’t have to work that hard to be heard.”

Hearing her concerns Tuesday were Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, Rep. Travis Tranel, R-Cuba City, City Manager Larry Bierke and University of Wisconsin-Platteville Chancellor Dennis Shields.

The Downtown Parking Alliance’s goal of the meeting was to request regular discussions with the University and the City of Platteville. They were successful.

“Yes, (meeting) is fine with me,” Shields said to David Spensley, owner of the Bridal Boutique. “I agree. We are always looking for ways to communicate with the community. As the University developed a plan we thought we’d include public comment. I think we need to get together. I will show up as often as I can.”

Schultz suggested that each group select two representatives to “talk and get ideas on the table.”

“You have to have a relationship with eachother, even if you disagree,” Schultz said.

The Downtown Parking Alliance originally formed last year to address issues with the parking lot on Bonson and Pine Streets.  The group is made up of downtown business owners.

“Businesses were concerned about losing parking to development,”  Erschen-Bahr said. “We didn’t want permit parking to move into the (Bonson and Pine Streets) lot, If permits are put in certain places, then businesses might not be viable to stay open.”

City Council discussed turning the parking lot on Bonson and Pine Street into a two-tiered parking ramp in March.  The upper level would be accessible for residents and the lower level for the public. The parking ramp would create an additional 50 parking spots. It was a $4.5 million project that fell through.

“The developer backed out, because we changed the plan five to six times,” Bierke said. “So, the developer threw their hands in the air.”

The Downtown Parking Alliance later noticed customers were confused on parking accessibility near their stores.

“I suggest putting a group of people together to work on a cable access program that lays out the parking accessibility,” Schultz said.

The City Council still plans to keep parking downtown free for the public, Bierke said.

“I don’t like the idea of meters,” Bierke said. “We’ve narrowed it down to customers. They deserve free parking. I think that will always be the City Council’s stand on that.”

Regular meetings were not set at the open forum; however, the Downtown Parking Alliance plans to be in touch with the City of Platteville and UW-Platteville.

“This meeting is exactly what we needed,”  Erschen-Bahr said. “We need to have open communication with all parties.”