Enforcing time limits first step in improving Lake Bluff’s downtown parking

They’ve received warnings for two weeks, but now those who exceed the posted on-street parking limit in downtown Lake Bluff will find a $25 parking ticket stuck to their windshield.

Lake Bluff police expected to make the switch to beefed-up parking enforcement on Monday, July 21, according to Deputy Police Chief Mike Hosking.

The heightened patrolling of timed parking zones follows the Village Board’s acceptance July 14 of a downtown parking study conducted by Rich and Associates. The village hired the parking consultant in September 2013 to assess current parking needs, project future demands and analyze current and future development plans for the village’s central business district. The study cost $15,200.

Enforcing the already-posted parking time limits, which vary from 15 minutes to four hours, is among the first steps the consultant recommended — and the village undertook — to open up parking in the busy downtown.

With a “history of inconsistent enforcement,” police started issuing warnings as a courtesy earlier in July, Village Administrator Drew Irvin said.

“We wanted to allow businesses and employees enough time to realize they are in violation of the ordinance and to please find a legal place to park, other than in a timed zone,” Deputy Police Chief Mike Hosking said.

Some merchants and their employees are the biggest offenders of violating on-street parking restrictions and “taking the primary parking stalls,” Irvin said. “It hurts them.”

In its final report, the consultant made numerous recommendations, ranging from hiring a part-time parking patrol officer to reducing the number of spaces zoned for 15-minute drop-off and pick-up.

Village staff will review and prioritize the study recommendations and propose a timeline for implementation to the Finance Committee as it prepares the fiscal year 2016 budget, Irvin said.

The consultant conducted on-site parking surveys, interviews, public meetings and online surveys from September 2013 through April 2014.

From that data, the consultant developed 10 best practices for the village to consider when addressing central business district parking strategies.

Some of the top recommendations include limiting most on-street parking downtown to two hours and providing adequate off-street, long-term parking for employees, customers and visitors who plan on spending more than two hours downtown.

The consultant also identified a need for additional employee parking within walking distance of downtown businesses. Currently, lots on Walnut Avenue, at Artesian Park and the east train station lot are the only public locations available for long-term parking.

Reconfiguring the train station parking lot, discouraging the development of any new private parking lots downtown, charging for parking, increasing parking fines and adding more bike racks to encourage bicycle ridership were among the other suggestions.

The complete parking study can be viewed on the village’s website at www.lakebluff.org.

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