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Casper City Council to go with $25 annual fees after resident complaints for charging to park on parkways

Chad Lore spoke against the city charging fees for permits to park on the parkway on Tuesday, June 7. (Screenshot via City of Casper, Youtbue)

CASPER, Wyo. — The Casper City Council is planning to adjust the fee for parkway parking permits to a $25 annual fee once the permit program is expanded citywide.

The city currently has a pilot parkway parking permit program limited to 12th and 13th Streets between CY Avenue and McKinley Street, with parking on the parkway prohibited elsewhere in the city. The fees for the pilot program include a $250 initial fee plus a $50 fee to renew the permit.

Residents wanting to park on the parkway, the city-owned space between a street and a sidewalk often covered in grass, must also pave it at their own expense.

Some residents have expressed frustration about being ticketed for parking on parkways and the idea that they will be charged for permits to do so during City Council meetings in recent weeks. Rules prohibiting parking on parkways have long been on the books but have not been enforced. While the city temporarily resumed enforcement of the ban on parkway parking without a permit, that enforcement is again on pause until the City Council passes an ordinance to expand the permit program citywide.

The City Council passed the new citywide parkway parking permit ordinance rules on first reading on June 7 and would need to pass those rules on two further readings in order for the changes to take effect. The fees, however, are set via resolution separate from the ordinance.

If the City Council does not adjust fees via resolution but passes the ordinance changes, the permit fees would remain at a $250 initial fee and a $50 annual renewal charge. The City Council discussed adjusting those fees during its Tuesday, June 14 work session.

Councilmembers Bruce Knell and Amber Pollock spoke in favor of doing away with the initial fees but charging a $25 fee each year for the parkway parking permits.

Pollock said she thinks some process needs to be in place to ensure people are paving parkways in an appropriate manner. As she doesn’t think the permit program will be widely taken advantage of by residents, Pollock said she doesn’t think it is crucial the city collect the initial fees to help cover staff time related to issuing permits and checking parkways are appropriately paved.

Knell said he was opposed to the initial fees and he thinks the city will see more revenue via issuing tickets to people not obtaining permits than through the collection of permit fees.

“I can promise you, we are going to make a hell of a lot more off of the tickets that are going to be issued to people until they do it the right way than worrying about $100,” Knell said, the $100 figure referring to an adjusted initial fee the City Council was considering at one point.

Councilmember Steve Cathey asked what a building permit would cost a resident for a $2,000 project, assuming residents needed to get a building permit in order to pour concrete to pave a parkway. Residents do not have to pull a building permit for such work as it is flat work, Chief Building Official Dan Elston said.

For other types of work that do require permits, there is a sliding fee schedule for permit costs, and a $2,000 project would cost $104 for a building permit, Elston said.

While councilmembers spoke about doing away with the initial permit fee, City Manager Carter Napier said he thinks such a fee may be appropriate given that residents paving parkways would be modifying what is public property. He also said an $100 fee does not seem exorbitant to him.

“If it is $100, it is hard for me to understand why it is a deal breaker, frankly,” Napier said.

Pollock noted that the $25 annual fee would total $100 over four years. While charging an initial fee might recover costs associated with staff time spent on inspecting parkways more quickly, the annual $25 fee would ensure some level of compensation for that staff work time, she said.

Vice Mayor Steve Freel, who was not in attendance during the June 7 meeting, said he doesn’t understand why the City Council is spending so much time on the parkway permit issue.

“I think we’ve gone way too deep in the weeds on this,” Freel said.

He added that he thinks the city should get away from monitoring whether people are parking on the parkway entirely. While the parkway is owned by the city, Freel noted that residents are asked to maintain these areas and that latitude should be given to people’s use of the space.

“Whether you want to plant trees, plant roses or you want to plant concrete, do what you want to do and use it the way you want to use it,” Freel said.

Councilmember Shawn Johnson said that from a constitutional perspective, the reason some permit and fee needs to be in place is because the parkway is public property and the city can’t allow a private citizen to personally benefit from use of public property for free. He said this is similar to the need to require a restaurant to obtain a permit to put tables and chairs on a sidewalk.

Freel said that parkways are public property but residents being asked to maintain the property near their homes should give residents some right to decide what to do with that space.

With several on the City Council communicating an understanding that the city must charge something to allow private use of public property, the council indicated it wants to move forward with the $25 annual fee proposal. No initial fee would be charged and residents would still be required to pave the parkway at their own expense in a manner approved by the city.

Staff will draft a resolution to adjust the fees for the City Council’s formal consideration at an upcoming regular meeting.