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Downtown West Bend business owners voice concerns about parking – council votes in favor of ordinance change

West Bend, WI – After more than an hour of comment from the public and downtown West Bend business owners regarding proposed changes to the municipal code related to downtown parking and parking permit regulations, the common council voted 7 – 1 Monday night in favor of the proposed ordinance change.

Police Chief Tim Dehring said the overall goal was to “simplify the ordinance, make it enforceable, and elicit compliance.”

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Bullet points of the discussion:

  • Tony Jasen – BID board member and building/business owner on Main Street – We need to separate the parking issue between employees and customers.
  • Gaytha Hillman – I’d love for city to come up with some kind of parking. I’ve been here 40 years and there could be exceptions, perhaps register their situation and if they can’t find a reasonable solution – let there be leniency.
  • Laurie Winters executive director Museum of Wisconsin Art – I believe it’s all about the customers but the lot MOWA owns – it is not a public, city lot. We want to be great neighbors. We are happy to accommodate overflow parking.  What is potentially a problem is if our parking lot is suddenly taken over by employees who work on Main Street.  What about our customers and where are our employees are going to park? I asked what is the impact and the real numbers and no one has been able to give me an answer. You haven’t done the research. I suggest delay a decision until you’re fully informed.  I feel MOWA has gone out of its way to maintain it (the parking lot) aesthetically and appropriately.  This is changing the environment and what is the impact? That is what I want to know, the impact.
  •  Richard Ruchalski co-owner WB Music Academy.  There needs to be a waiver for elderly employees and not just customers. The elderly, handicap, and disabled employees.  Do they get a waiver or some type of tolerance? I can’t afford to lose people. It’s not about us being selfish or greedy, the young ones can walk but the ones with mobility issues and being able to walk that distance. It is not about me being the owner and having my own spot. I don’t.  Maybe have more handicap spots. What about senior citizen parking. If we really want spots for the elderly, why not have signs for that.
  • One woman whose son lives in an apartment downtown suggested a shuttle from possibly the Fleet Farm lot on Highway 33 to the downtown Main Street to help ease congestion.
  • Shelia a business owner said her problem is when people “park around my business for 7 to 8 hours a day.”
  • Wes Feest, owner of The Antidote – I need to get to my business to do drop-offs but people parking in front of the business for 8 hours a day. Can the biz owners be in charge. I definitely have to get there, and nobody should be parked there for 8-9 hours.
  • Kevin Schultz, owner of Mountain Outfitters said the underlying problem is employees will park 6 – 8 spots down but then they walk to their store…. the employees are not good for downtown, or business owners aren’t enforcing it.
  • Tony Jansen – summed up the issue. “Every person but one who spoke tonight, talked about employees parking on Main Street. The ordinance is giving customers the right to park. The problem is the employee parking. Clearly there needs to be a fix.”

The council weighed in following public comments

District 1 alderman John Butschlick – My primary concern was not giving customers a place to park. “This isn’t etched in stone; this is a steppingstone to something down the road. We have construction in 2023 and it will be mass chaos down there. This customers vs. employees will be mass chaos. Like the chief said, he’s not trying to make money on this. The customers have the right to park, and the employees need to walk.  So, we can get through this construction area and once it is finished, we can increase parking spaces, which will probably open some of the side streets for employees to park. At this point we need to make sure we take care of the customers. If we can try to help keep things going for this year it will be an education for the public.  I will vote in favor of it.

Dist. 5 alderman Jed Dolnick – The chief has assured us this will be by complaint only.  If anyone is handicap, they are not subject to any regulations.

Chief Tim Dehring – It is not revenue driven but compliance driven. The ordinance is for the person who is intentionally violating, it is not for the one off. We have a lot of priorities, but we will not send 7 squads for someone dropping off lunch.

Dehring pointed out the current downtown parking ordinance has been in place since 1959.  “We will start with an educational process, and we will give everyone a chance to be a good neighbor.”

Dist. 6 alderwoman Tracy Ahrens – As a business owner I can sympathize.  I see it both ways. As a business owner I would be concerned about employee retention.  I have concerns about the people who live there. There is not an easy solution for any of it.

Dist. 8 alderman Aaron Zingsheim – The goal right now, with construction forthcoming is what will we do for these businesses to remain viable. The employee parking issue is a problem but priority No. 1 is getting customers into the business.

The final decision: Aldermen voting in favor of the change: Dist. 1 John Butschlick, Dist. 2 Mark Allen, Dist. 3 Brett Bergquist, Dist. 4 Randy Koehler, Dist. 5 Jed Dolnick, Dist. 7 Justice Madl, and Dist. 8 Aaron Zingsheim.  Dist. 6 alderwoman Tracy Ahrens was the lone dissenting vote.

The issue will be brought back for a second vote to the next council meeting in order to the ratify the vote.

On a side note – below is the Main Street reconstruction cost and timetable between Walnut Street and Washington Street.

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