Proposed parking requirements put renewed focus on Niwot public lot
March 21, 2019
Stalled plans to build a public parking lot west of old town Niwot could be getting a jump-start after Boulder County Commissioner Deb Gardner strongly suggested revisiting a county policy that has prevented the lot’s developers from moving ahead with construction.
During a March 12 Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) public hearing on proposed updates to the Niwot Rural Community District (NRCD) land use code, Gardner questioned a provision in the 2011 Niwot Transportation and Connectivity Plan (NTCP) that delays county action to increase the town’s parking supply until certain utilization thresholds are met. According to the most recent study, conducted in the summer of 2016, Niwot’s commercial parking zones still have excess capacity.
“We have the criteria that says at this point that the parking lot can’t be built by the LID, but they’ve purchased the property,” Gardner said. “What is the process for changing those criteria? It seems like in some ways it might make sense to lower those criteria so they can build the parking lot now and everybody else can use it.”
The Niwot LID board acquired a two-acre parcel between Murray Street and the BNSF railroad tracks in 2017, but not much has happened since. However, the prospective public lot has come under renewed focus during the NRCD code update process, and it figures prominently in the land use staff’s proposed parking requirements, both as a source of additional spaces and “contingency parking” in the county’s parking reduction scheme.
Nevertheless, land use director Dale Case was quick to point out during the BOCC hearing that the potential new parking regulations do not “authorize the parking lot on Murray Street to move forward.”
“That would be a Local Improvement District decision,” he said. “What the regulation change here does is it allows that parking lot to be utilized if and when it is constructed to meet the parking requirements for development in the district.”
Nor does the lack of a lot stop any development from moving forward, according to Case. With parking studies still showing available capacity in downtown Niwot, the proposed requirements can be satisfied with “excess parking on the street” for now.
As for revisiting the NTCP parking thresholds as Gardner suggested, the process for doing so wasn’t immediately clear, but likely involves an additional proceeding by the BOCC.
Commissioner Elise Jones argued for deferring action on it until after more urgent concerns in the NRCD update had been addressed, prompting Gardner to say she would look into the matter further herself.
In the meantime, the next Niwot parking study could be conducted as early as this summer, but lingering vacancies at Colterra and the former Powder Keg space may prompt the LID board to postpone it. In any event, construction of a new public parking lot would still be subject to the county’s Special Review process, and is unlikely to begin anytime soon.