Bozeman commissioners pushed back a decision on whether to create a framework for charging people to park along streets neighboring downtown.

Around 11 p.m. on Monday, the Bozeman City Commission agreed to delay a vote on drawing a parking district 1,000 feet beyond the core of downtown until March 2.

The district would allow the parking commission to eventually create zones that either require permits or paid, timed parking.

“This is a big decision and it’s something that affects not only downtown but areas around the downtown,” said Deputy Mayor Cyndy Andrus, adding she wouldn’t mind having more time to discuss the district.

If approved, the district wouldn’t spell out where within its boundaries zones may end up.

Residents would have the option to buy a permit and several visitor permits if a zone is established in their area. Commuters could pay higher prices, which staff called “market rates” to snag a permit out of a limited stock.

What that breakdown looks like or how much the permits would cost is still unclear.

City staff started evaluating its parking program at the commission’s request after pushback from people who said Black-Olive — a controversial five-story building on the edge of downtown — didn’t come with enough parking.

City staff have advertised the zones as a way to prioritize residents’ right to park in their neighborhood as competition for the spots increases.

However, some people who live within those blocks said Monday that paying to park on their street seemed unfair — especially for those who put money toward road improvements at the city’s request.

Roughly 40 people sat in the commission chambers at 10 p.m., a larger-than-usual crowd for the weekly meeting. They were waiting to weigh in on the proposed change.

Brian Gallik, a Bozeman attorney speaking on behalf of himself, said if there is a parking problem, the neighborhoods aren’t the problem and residents shouldn’t have to pay the price.

“Fundamentally it’s the city’s policy that allows developers ... to build four- and five-story buildings, with inadequate parking to come into the neighborhoods,” Gallik said.

Jeannie Gracey said she’s lived in Bozeman for 27 years. She was among those who said they were worried about the vagueness of how much the zones could cost.

“When I first heard that we’re going to have to pay to park at our own houses, that just doesn’t feel like Montana to me, that doesn’t feel like Bozeman to me,” she said. “... It’s very hard on a single income with kids in this town and to keep getting nickel and dimed is really disheartening.”

Some small business owners like independent health providers and short-term rental owners in the neighborhoods questioned what they would do when clients show up and don’t have permits.

Meece responded business owners could buy visitor parking permits and add clients’ license plates to the permit temporarily, which caused some grumbles from the audience.

The commission got as far as working through initial questions with staff and hearing public comments. That leaves the commissioners’ discussion and a vote for the March meeting.

That discussion could lead to changes to the zones’ framework if it’s approved.

For example, the district only allows for property owners to weigh in on the creation and makeup of zones. Some commissioners pointed out renters would also feel an impact from the zones.

The draft also states people who live in apartments wouldn’t qualify for the less expensive residential parking permits if a zone comes to their street. Commissioners asked whether places like the Boulevard Apartments, which offers affordable housing to people priced at 30% of their income, could avoid the higher fees.

One of the remaining questions commissioners will face in March is whether to allow people to buy one residential permit per house or for each driver — a choice city staff are split on.

Katheryn Houghton can be reached at khoughton@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2628.

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