Council vetoes unmetered Main Street parking

Matt Kuhns

Proponents of unmetered parking on Main Street received a major setback at the Ames City Council meeting Tuesday.

Council members voted unanimously to deny a request from Main Street business owners that parking meters not be reinstalled along Main and Fifth streets between Duff and Grand avenues.

The council made its decision following City Manager Steve Schainker’s presentation of a staff analysis of the plan’s impact.

He said removing all of the parking meters from the requested streets could cost the city $112,000 in lost revenue.

“I believe it’s a conservative estimate,” Schainker said of the staff’s findings. He said the loss of revenue from parking fees and fines would mean insufficient money to maintain the downtown streets.

Council member Sharon Wirth agreed with that concern.

“I really don’t see a way to make this work financially without subsidizing it from our tax base,” she said, adding that she does not believe there is enough support for such an approach.

Schainker said removing the meters could also result in people who work downtown parking on the unmetered streets all day.

Main Street business owners had recommended enforcing a two-hour parking limit downtown by chalking tires.

However, Schainker said current parking enforcement staff probably would not be able to cover the downtown area more than twice a day.

Council member John Parks questioned whether it was reasonable to consider unmetered downtown parking in a city the size of Ames.

“I’m not certain that there’s a downtown area of this scale that does this,” he said.

Although anti-meter arguments did not convince the council to approve the request, downtown business owners’ ideas could get another chance.

Council member Herman Quirmbach suggested downtown businesses support their plan through a Self-Sustaining Municipal Improvement District, or SMID, in which businesses would make up the lost money from parking fees and fines to pay for street maintenance.

Quirmbach said if businesses modified their plan in this way, he would support leaving parking meters off the requested streets.