Paid parking lots in Old Colorado City?

       A proposal is being considered to charge for parking in Old Colorado City's three free lots.
       After discussing the idea at its March 2 meeting, the Old Colorado City Security & Maintenance District Advisory Committee asked City Parking Administrator Gregory Warnke to come back to its next meeting April 6 with details about potential costs, revenues and metering alternatives.
       The parking fees would go to the city, not the district, but the committee's thinking is that a greater monetary infusion from Old Colorado City would compel the city to spend more money on public amenities there than it does at present.
       Warnke supported this impression, commenting at one point during the meeting that if the lots were paid and under city control, “they would be better maintained.”
       The three lots combined have about 170 parking spaces, he said. The smallest lot is on the south side of the 2600 block of Colorado Avenue; another is located behind the stores on the south side of the 2400 block; and the largest is behind the stores on the north side of the 2500 block.
       The district was formed 26 years ago in large part to keep the city from controlling the lots and charging people to park there. This irony is not lost on Dave Hughes, who led that effort and is still active on the Westside. “I think it is a stupid, self-defeating measure, because free lots, paid for by the district, were calculated like shopping centers to attract shoppers to the area,” he said, when contacted after the meeting. “Putting parking meters in otherwise-free lots would drive away shoppers. They'll complain and head for the malls.”
       Nancy Stovall, president of the Old Colorado City Associates (OCCA) merchants group, said she plans to wait for Warnke's April presentation before forming an opinion or surveying merchants about the proposal. But her gut feeling is that the majority would not support it “unless we can see some big benefit.”
       No time limits or fees for parking have been proposed. The committee also asked Warnke to provide information about different possibilities, ranging from traditional meters on posts to systems where people pay to enter the lots. Members also would like an idea of how much revenue might be generated from paid lots.
       What spurred the committee to consider the paid-parking concept was the long-smoldering opinion that Old Colorado City receives fewer amenities from the city than does the downtown - even though the three-block shopping area has upgraded its assessed valuation through historic redevelopment and provides steady revenues from about 150 on-street parking meters.
       “If you have two children, just because one isn't as good-looking as the other doesn't mean you can't love it,” Kasten half- humorously theorized.
       However, Warnke indicated that the net earnings from Old Town's meters are not as high as committee members might think. The downtown is larger and more profitable, he said, with parking garages and meters that are constantly being fed.
       “If you wanted the profits from Old Colorado City's meters, you could have a meeting once a month and there would be enough for each of you to have an ice cream cone,” he told the committee.
       Warnke said his office does help with some of the district's parking-lot costs at present, including trash collection and, occasionally, when city paint trucks are in the area, the striping of parking spaces.
       Kasten said she has no estimates yet as to how much the district might save in maintenance costs by turning over the parking lots to the city. Any savings would be used to pay for other district needs, she said. Last year, drawing from its contingency funds, the district spent $97,000 for the new Old Colorado City streetlights. This year, major landscaping upgrades along the avenue are being studied.
       In answer to another committee question, Warnke noted that the city parking office does not receive the money from paid parking tickets. This money goes to the city's general fund, he said.
       The Maintenance Dis-trict, funded by a separate property tax on the district's roughly 100 property owners, oversees public im- provements in the three-block area on and beside Colorado Avenue between 24th and 27th streets.

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