City tackles summer parking crunch by reserving lot for marina

But move intended to accommodate slip renters doesn’t solve trailer parking problem exacerbated by sale of land

A city parking lot at the corner of Lake and Jackson streets will be reserved for marina tenants on weekends in an effort to manage the summer parking crunch in Port Washington. Photo by Bill Schanen IV
By 
KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Ozaukee Press staff

Preparing for what they hope will be a busy summer fishing and boating season, Port Washington aldermen last week decided to reserve a small public parking lot at the corner of Lake and Jackson streets for marina tenants on weekends.

The change limits parking in the lot to marina tenants on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from the third Friday in June — June 15 this year —through Labor Day.

The change was recommended by the Harbor Commission, whose members said it would help ensure there’s adequate parking for marina tenants during the busiest times of the year.

Unless there’s adequate parking for tenants, they said, tenants may be tempted to leave the Port marina and dock their boats elsewhere.

While most aldermen agreed to the measure — at least this year — Ald. Mike Gasper cast the lone dissenting vote, arguing that the restriction isn’t needed.

“I’m pretty confident there are going to be weekends it’s sitting empty,” he said of the 22-stall parking lot.  “It’s currently used quite often. If you go down there on weekends, it’s pretty full.”

Gasper said the city would be better off shifting some of the parking meters in the marina parking lot, where signs would be installed designating these spots for tenant parking, to the Lake Street lot. 

People would then be more inclined to park on the street and opening the Lake Street lot to anyone, including marina tenants, he said.

“It would open this up to a lot more flexibility,” Gasper said.

It would be available to marina tenants because others would be discouraged by the meters, he said, but the city isn’t preventing anyone from parking there.

Ald. Mike Ehrlich said that it makes sense to try the restrictions this year.

“If it doesn’t work out, we’ll be back here figuring it out,” he said.

City Administrator Mark Grams said the marina staff would monitor the lot to see who uses it and when. The city can make changes to the rules if necessary, he noted.

And, he added, the marina parking attendant will use discretion in ticketing people in the lot depending on demand. If the weather is bad and few tenants are parked there, tickets likely won’t be issued if someone else parks there. 

“There is some common sense that will be used by the parking person,” Grams said. 

Ald. Dan Benning noted that the city is talking about potentially moving the fish cleaning station close to this parking lot, and asked how this would affect the change.

No decision has been made on where to move the fish cleaning station, Grams said, but he noted that it won’t be relocated until at least 2019.

While the measure approved last week is aimed at alleviating congestion in the marina parking lot, Grams said Tuesday the biggest challenge is trailer parking. 

To help deal with that, he said, Harbormaster Dennis Cherny is in talks to see if car-trailers could use the north marina slip parking lot, which was sold by the city earlier this year to developer Gertjan van den Broek for the Blues Factory entertainment complex.

Cherny believes the lot would be a viable short-term solution, Grams said, while the city continues to look at a long-term solution to the trailer parking issue.

Although some people had suggested the city revamp the public parking lot near the Van Ells-Schanen American Legion Hall to accommodate trailer parking, that’s not an immediate solution, Grams said.

“It’s not going anywhere this year because you would have to change the configuration of the lot,” he said, something the city has neither planned nor budgeted for. 

Parking has been a perennial issue in downtown Port, but Grams said he doesn’t expect the city to make many other changes in the near future or to conduct another parking study.

“I think we’re just going to keep an eye on it as developments move forward,” he said.

The last parking study, unveiled in 2014 by consultant Nelson Nygaard,  was commissioned by the city and its Business Improvement District. 

Based on a study conducted the previous summer, the study showed the city had such a glut of available parking in downtown the community could sustain twice as much business as it had and recommended that the city consider selling some of the land it owned east of Franklin Street for development.

“The study was done very well. Unfortunately, the people didn’t accept it,” Grams said. 

And while on a busy summer weekend there may be many vehicles parked in downtown, Grams said, “Isn’t that what you want?”

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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