Residents, council mull parking, downtown tourism at town hall

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By Tris DeRoma

Parking and increased tourism in the downtown area quickly took over a town hall discussion on economic development April 3. 

Los Alamos County Councilors Randall Ryti, David Izraelevitz and Council Chair Sara Scott hosted the meeting, which was about how the county could better facilitate businesses and their needs.

Scott said the plan was to take all of the comments and suggestions made at the meeting and see what could be done.

Los Alamos Commerce and Development Executive Director Patrick Sullivan said they had been studying the issue, and whatever solution they came up with would be difficult. He said studies have shown that the cost of structured parking ranged in cost between $28,000 and $35,000 per space for a developer.

“Eventually, structured parking is going to have to happen or we’re going to have to start tearing down buildings to make parking,” said David Jolly, owner of Metzger’s hardware on Central Avenue. “You can’t tell people they can’t have a car.”

Jolly also said because of the expense, the county would probably have to take on the project.

“The expense of structured parking means it’s going to have to be government, because there’s no business in town that can afford to build structured parking,” Jolly said. “We need to be serious about that and start laying the groundwork.”

Other ideas discussed included making it easier for visitors to find things in one place that they could then carry with them. Creating maps for businesses, combining apps that are already available and other ideas seemed to be the most popular. “I can’t tell you how many people have come up to me and said, ‘hey, what do you have in town?,” Sullivan said.

To answer that question, he also said he and his staff are putting an online, one-hour training program together for local businesses to help their staff answer questions from visitors.

Cyndi Wells, owner of Pet Pangaea suggested some of the staff at the Los Alamos Visitors Center can wear shirts that invite tourists and visitors to ask questions and for directions.

“Walking down Central, I always run into visitors,” Wells said. “I tell them about all kinds of things when I see them.”

Izraelevitz said that whatever the council and the public come up with together, people should be open to new ideas and change.

“We all love this community. We want it to stay the way it is, but at the same time, we want it to move forward,” Izraelevitz said. “Whether it’s community or personal, there’s always that tension and balance between the good things moving forward. I appreciate the people’s concerns and discussions.”

Scott said the meeting was informative, and is looking forward to hearing more about what the Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corporation and others have to say about the parking issues.

“It will certainly be interesting to see what they find out about that. We would want to have additional discussions to see what others in the community think about it,” Scott said. “If they think it’s an issue and they’re willing to take a look at it, it will be certainly good to get their input.”

Easier things she said they may tackle in the near future is getting wider distribution of “walk and shop” maps to businesses and visitors. Another issue that may be worked on is the installation of signs instructing people where to go in the downtown area.

Los Alamos County Chamber of Commerce Director Ryn Herrmann thought the meeting was informative.

“Anytime there’s a focus on how to help the businesses, it’s a really great thing,” Herrmann said.

The next town hall meeting is at 5:30 p.m. today at the council chambers at the County Municipal Building.

This meeting is about protecting, enhancing and maintaining infrastructure and open space. It is hosted by county councilors Pete Sheehey, James Robinson and Katrina Schmidt.