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Parking Woes for Workers in Downtown Woodland

WOODLAND -- There's no doubt downtown Woodland is booming, but for many trying to find a place to park in order to take part in the boom, it is often a bust.

Kristopher Farnham has to leave Stack'd and Brew'd and make an anxiety-filled walk up to three times a shift to make sure his car hasn't been tagged for a ticket.

"Now see I got lucky today, no ticket," he said celebrating in a lot a block away from his restaurant.

Monday he got hit with a $45 fine.

"I'm a cook. I can't just leave my job and go move my car all day," he said.

But that's what he and other workers along Main Street say they have to do as lots without time limits fill up and they run past their stay on two-hour spots.

Farnham's sister works across the street at Burger Saloon.

"It's just about being safer. I mean a lot of stuff happens here, any town," that's why Kirsten's worried about parking farther away when she pulls a late shift in the kitchen.

"I have to walk on an unlit street to my car, then I have every reason to gripe," said Stephen Coyle, Woodland's deputy director of community planning.

"What's really needed is proper lighting."

That's just one of the parking-related improvements he's working on these days.

A 2017 utilization study shows the city's 1,400 downtown parking spaces are only half-full at the peak periods of noon to 1 p.m. and 6 to 7 p.m.

Still, he understands the employee frustrations out there, but also says all drivers need to be more understanding and take advantage of lots just one or two blocks off Main.

"The old joke is people go to the fitness center, but they want to park at the front door. They don't want to walk across the parking lot," he said.

"We're not saying we want free parking for us right out in front of the door," Kirsten countered.

Farnham understands most spots need to turn over for new customers, but she also thinks there has to be a better solution.

"We'll pay for a permit, a permit to park for every month, every year, whatever we need to do," she said.

"Well that's interesting and we should definitely take that into consideration," said Coyle after hearing her idea for the first time.

"Essentially what they want is they want to be able to pay for parking rights on a public street. Once you go there, once you begin to allow certain people to park there because they paid a fee is that fair?"

It's a notion Coyle says the city would have to look at as it tries to balance business needs with customer access to its free spaces.

He suggested offering a limited number of shift-only permits and letting applicants put their name in a lottery to receive one might be a way to make such a system work.

In the meantime, Woodland is moving ahead with other work to make its streets more friendly.

With additional street lighting out of the city's budget, Coyle says Woodland is teaming up with some merchants to have them add lights along the sides of their businesses to make the walk to any parking spot brighter.

Those lights should be up by the end of December.