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Council approves metered parking plan at Butler Shores park

Monday, December 16, 2013 by Elizabeth Pagano

After a City Council vote last week, plans to meter parking at the Butler Shores Ball Field parking lot in South Austin are moving forward.


Council approved the plan in a 6-1 vote, with Council Member Kathie Tovo voting no.


Tovo argued that there were reasonable alternatives to installing the meters, including enforcing the parking regulations currently in place at the lot. To install the meters, the city was required to determine that there is “no reasonable alternative” to the plan, leading to some practical (and philosophical) discussion.


“Seems to be that a reasonable alternative would be not to do it,” said Mayor Lee Leffingwell. “Is that not reasonable?”


As Council Member Chris Riley saw it: not really.


“I would just point out – as the Urban Transportation Commission did – that we are about to proceed with metering in the surrounding area. And if we don’t meter this area, what that means is, this will always be filled with non-park users. Meaning, park users would have no access to the parking,” said Riley. “If a goal of this parking lot is to ensure that it is available to park users, then the only reasonable alternative is to have meters there so that it is on par with the surrounding area.”


A Parks Department study in July found most of the parking lot use came from nearby construction workers, with some additional use from customers of Casa de Luz, which is across Toomey Road, and Chuy’s, which is on Barton Springs Road. The study also found 10 to 20 cars from the nearby Barton Place Condominiums in the parking lot “at all times.”


The plan to install meters came out of a resolution, sponsored by Riley, which is linked to the ongoing parking troubles at Casa de Luz. (See In Fact Daily, June 11)


While some hope the plan could aid the community restaurant, others, like Tovo, are wary of the creep towards commercialization of city parks.


“I just am distressed in the direction that we are going,” said Tovo. “At a time where we really need to be making parks more open and accessible to families, to all kinds of individuals, we should not be charging for our park land or our parking at them.”


Riley pointed out that the city already charges for parking at Barton Springs Pool.


“I do not consider stationing a staffer in that parking lot at all times to be a feasible and prudent option. That would be a continual drain on the Parks Department at a time when we are having trouble paying lifeguards and other staff,” said Riley.


Riley pointed out that the preservation of free on-street parking was “hardly a goal you would find in any of the planning that we have done for the waterfront area.”


Paid parking will be in effect from 8am to 4pm in the Butler Shores parkland parking meters. The proposed rate for the meters is one dollar per hour, which is expected to raise about $16,000 for the city annually.


“This is a departure from our current practice, and I don’t think it’s a good departure,” said Tovo. “This plan will not ensure parking is available for park users. There’s no way you can ensure that.”

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