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Parking perils

Press Photo by Lisa Call Resident True White speaks at a Dickinson City Commission meeting Monday at City Hall.

A meeting room at Dickinson's City Hall Monday was once again filled with those concerned over downtown parking issues, but one official said Friday that parking woes are nothing new.

"It's a tough problem," said City Administrator Shawn Kessel. "It's a problem that they've been trying to solve in town for decades, literally decades. Nobody's going to agree."

A third and final public hearing on downtown parking issues was held Monday evening and the turnout was once again high.

"Now the Commission's going to have to make a decision on what to do next," Kessel said. "There is no self-imposed deadline. I think it's something they're going to debate. ... It's not cheap to do parking lots."

Throughout the three public meetings held on the topic, several options to alleviate parking issues have been put on the table, including resurfacing a parking lot next to Westwind Consulting Center Inc. on Villard Street, converting an empty lot by the former Wells Fargo Bank and changes to a downtown park at the corner of Villard and Sims streets.

Kessel estimates the three options could cost about $250,000 to $300,000.

Downtown businesses pay into a parking fund and the fund's reserve balance could be used to "pay down" any costs, Kessel said.

Kessel said the issue may be discussed at a Capital Improvements meeting at City Hall Tuesday at 1 p.m.

The city's Urban Forestry Committee has been concerned with preserving downtown green space.

"I think we all know this park needs some energy, needs some revitalization," said Robert Keogh, chairman of the committee, at a March meeting. "We think this is a park that should stay in downtown Dickinson, but it's got to have some help."

If the Commission chooses to expand parking in the park area, green space along Sims Street would be lost, but green space along Villard Street could remain along with a part of the park's main area, Kessel said.

"You can do both," he said. "I'm not sure that you do either justice when you do that, but it would be a compromise."

Several parking proponents spoke on behalf of the increased need, including Derald Payne of Dickinson, who presented two plans of action.

Parking concerns not only surround providing spaces for customers, but adding downtown residents and staff into the mix makes the situation a little more complicated, Kessel said.

"It seems to me as though there is a gorilla in the middle of the living room that's being totally ignored," said resident True White, who owns lots on First Avenue East between First and Second streets, a property some say would be prime space for additional parking.

White said she has resisted selling the lots as she has dreamed of it being made into an art park.

"It's interesting to me and really just leaves me wondering why nobody has mentioned this ever, in all of your discussions," White said. "It seems as though it all surrounds that one bitsy park that some feel needed to be turned into parking and yet there are options that have not even been entertained."

White said she offered to give the space to the city, but the gift would come with some restrictions.

The city refused the gift on a few occasions, White said.

"To be the giver of another parking spot is not exactly my idea of contributing to the growth and beauty and hopefully higher quality of the city," White said.