City of Laurel issues statement on parking issues

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Compiled By Torrey An-derson
Thursday, September 22, 2022

In a statement released on Sept. 16, the City of Laurel addressed the concerns of many residents and business owners regarding parking in the city. According to the document released on the City’s Facebook page, “These issues have been, at different times, raised by way of public comment at City of Laurel City Council meetings.” The statement acknowledges other members of the community that have reached out personally to City Council members to ask that the City address parking issues, “as well as implement further expansion plans to ”open up” more parking in the city, and most specifically, in the downtown area of Laurel.”

The statement speaks to many of the challenges faced by the city when it comes to making improvements. Parking issues have been an ongoing concern for residents and business owners for many years. The statement reads, “Simply put, the City’s historical infrastructure, design, and implementation of streets/roadways, as well as parking spaces, did not necessarily adequately prepare for the existing needs of residents, as well as visitors to the city.”

City officials are asking for community input and involvement in coming up with solutions. According to the written statement, “The City is committed to continuing to evaluate all options available to it, that are fiscally sound and viable, within the City’s limited budget and resources. In that light, the city is evaluating setting up a Parking Advisory Board, whereby citizen members can help define issues, create solutions, find funding options for more and expanded parking, and propose various solutions to the Mayor, City Council, and City Staff.” Citizens interested in getting involved are invited to contact Public Works Director Kurt Markegaard via email at kmarkegard@laurel.mt.gov.

The statement also shares some information about the city’s legal obligations surrounding parking. “Montana law does not require that a municipality provide parking for city residents. Montana law provides that a municipality may provide parking, although the extent and scope of that is not defined by law.” According to code 7-14-4501, a city or town council may “acquire by lease, gift, purchase, or condemnation pursuant to Title 70, chapter 30, lots or lands for use as parking areas for motor vehicles. The city may construct and maintain on the acquired land, ”suitable parking facilities for the use of the public and for general traffic control, and charge for the use of those facilities.” The language of the code indicates that parking provisions are an “elective and not prescriptive.”

The city vows to explore all available options to improve the parking situation in Laurel. “These options may include metered parking, permitted parking lots, and eventually, even a parking facility/garage.” Even with ideas and plans for improving parking opportunities, revenue sources for many Montana townships are often few and far between. The statement reads, “City demands are largely served by way of limited property taxes, and those property taxes, for a city the size of Laurel, do not cover excess expenditures. When the city is forced to evaluate funding related to public services such as emergency response, the Laurel Police Department, Fire, and other necessary and important resources, the city, very unfortunately, does not have significant funds left-over for improvements related to services such as parking.”

Laurel citizens are encouraged to engage with the process and get involved with proposing solutions. The city also encourages Laurel citizens to speak with State Representatives about finding funding options for small communities like Laurel. The full statement regarding parking issues in Laurel is available for review on the city’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ cityoflaurelmontana.

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