Parking in Hamilton can be a thorny issue and conflicts over residential parking during the Farmer’s Market, which occupies portions of 3rd, 4th and State Streets on weekends in the summer, is an issue that has in the past led to angry outbursts and yelling matches. Not this time. Somehow Council President Travis Martinez was able to air some complaints from local residents in the area and listen to ardent supporters of the Farmer’s Market without anyone raising their voice. To top it off, the discussion ended with a glimmer of potential resolution.
Before the agenda item came up for discussion, Jim Olson, who was involved in the formation of the Farmer’s Market and has served on the board, spoke in support of the market. Olson said the market was started by the Ravalli County Museum as an attempt to help small businesses. He said the market generates a lot of money for the vendors and some even rely upon the summer market for their living or a good part of their living. He said they have had problems over the years but have tried to be good neighbors.
Local resident Randy Mathis was the first to speak on the agenda item and registered his complaint in a soft spoken but sincere tone.
“I don’t have anything against the Farmer’s Market people making a living,” he said. “But I have lived here for 16 to 17 years and in the last several years parking has gotten atrocious.” He said he knew of at least 10 families on the block that were finding it very difficult to get in and out of their homes every weekend in the summer. He suggested that off-street parking be enforced.
City Public Works Director Donny Ramer said that the rules requiring off-street parking did not apply to older homes that are grandfathered in. He said a significant remodel would trigger the requirement, but that a simple re-roofing project would not.
John Clawson, owner of the property at 3rd and Bedford, said the four homes on his property were all over 100 years old.
“The Farmer’s Market is a wonderful thing,” he said, “but the parking is an issue.” He suggested that the market consider moving into the park across from the City Hall.
Market Manager Terry Frost said, “I think moving to the park could work. I would be open to the idea.”
Other options were discussed such as promoting the use of existing public parks, closing 4th Street and opening 3rd, or requiring off street parking, but all had pros and cons.
Mayor Dominic Farrenkopf noted that with the Police Department having re-located, at least some of the objections to using the park area by the police would no longer be an issue.
Consensus was that trying to change things in the middle of market time was not a good option. It was decided to leave the issue in committee and bring it up again during the off season and try to come up with a solution before the next season begins.
Public Works Director Donny Ramer discussed upcoming street striping and signing projects. He said the priority spots for striping were Adirondac, State and Pine Streets. The first project would be Lindale to 7th Street on Adirondac. It would be painted with a double yellow center line, with two fog lines, one on each side, and some curb painting, all totaling about $1,000.
Plans include some work on 5th Street across from the Middle School for residential only and painting lines for parallel parking in front of Washington Elementary.
The Council also discussed developing some criteria for permitting events on Main Street. Ramer said that all events requiring street closure take the road department a half day to set up and take down for street closures which can include three or four intersections, some of which have to be partially closed.
The Main Street closure events in Hamilton are normally sponsored by either the Chamber of Commerce or the Hamilton Downtown Association. A request by another party was recently denied. Council President Travis Martinez suggested that the council develop some criteria for granting road closures.
“We can say we like Daly Days, but we need some criteria,” he said. He suggested splitting street closures from special event permits and considering them separately. He said it would not involve a lot of administrative work. It could just be done by adding a check box on the permit stating that it had council approval. Martinez said he thought the council knew what it wanted, but that it wasn’t clear to the public as things stand.
It was agreed to leave the issue in committee until a new application form currently being prepared was ready for adoption and then consider the issue again.