Monroe ponders parallel parking

MONROE — As in any town, downtown parking is a big deal here.

Dozens of people voiced concerns at a public hearing Tuesday evening about City Council plans to change parking along two blocks of Main Street. Today it’s diagonal parking on both sides. The council was considering a $1.9 million change to parallel parking.

After listening to business owners and residents, the majority of whom spoke in opposition to parallel parking, council members decided to switch to parallel parking spaces only on the south side of Main Street between Blakeley Street and Ferry Avenue. Angled parking will remain on the north side of the street.

The change will result in six fewer parking spaces, but sidewalks will be widened by about five feet.

Sky River Bakery owner Andrew Abt said the council’s decision was a slap in the face. He said he had earned more than a little “street cred” to talk about the parking issue after 28 years of running his downtown business. Abt collected 535 signatures on a petition to oppose the change.

“There are no pluses,” he said. “It makes no sense.”

But Monroe Chamber of Commerce Director Una Wirkebau-Hartt said she saw the change as an opportunity for outdoor seating at restaurants and space for merchants to display wares on the sidewalk. She thinks the new 15-foot-wide sidewalks could draw more people downtown and keep them in the area longer.

“We need more money coming into downtown,” Wirkebau-Hartt said.

The parking question grew out of a plan to tear up the street to better manage stormwater. The council figured that it might as well rethink downtown parking and sidewalks, as well.

Monroe has a $859,710 grant for the stormwater project from the state Department of Ecology, which it must spend by June 30. The change will reduce the amount of stormwater going into the sewer system.

The city will use the grant money and $1.1 million of its own to install porous pavement that allows water to go into the ground instead of the city’s sewer system.

Public Works Director Brad Feilberg said the porous concrete will reduce the amount of water processed by the city treatment plant and save the city about $2,600 a year in electricity costs. The reduction of water volume would be equivalent to that used by 600 houses a year, he said.

Construction is to start April 20 and is scheduled to be completed in August.

The City Council also plans in June to consider a change in the amount of time allowed for downtown parking.

Amy Nile: 425-339-3192; Twitter: @AmyNileReports.

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