SHERIDAN — Citizens discussed the need for additional parking spaces downtown during a Downtown Sheridan Streetscape Action Plan meeting. After conducting light research, the city of Sheridan counted 682 public stalls available for downtown parking, and only 50 percent of those stalls were being utilized during peak hours of the day.

City of Sheridan community development director Brian Craig said education of parking availability is the city’s first step in helping the situation downtown.

Craig is working with Zoila Perry and her team at Downtown Sheridan Association to create an updated map of all parking available in the downtown area and will have it available for everyone visiting DSA and the Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce.

Main Street still remains almost completely full throughout the day and especially during peak hours, but Craig said another initiative would have employees park two blocks away from their business to leave room for patrons entering the Main Street buildings.

The addition of the former C&C Tire and Auto lot provided spaces for parking one block away from Main Street and filled up for the Third Thursday celebration last week.

With the new map provided to DSA and the Chamber, Craig said updated signage will be a part of the immediate changes for the downtown parking issues. During the streetscape meeting, Tom Kraft, who co-owns Legacy Diamonds and Gems, shared that he has instructed all of his employees to park at least two blocks away to leave room for potential customers on Main Street.

“(Kraft) has a commitment that none of his employees will be parking on Main,” Craig said.

Kraft, whose business sits north and adjacent to PO News and Flagstaff Cafe, recognizes the struggle of parking during the busiest hours of breakfast. Corner lots like PO News and Frackelton’s have additional parking opportunities on perpendicular streets, but Craig said it’s still an issue during that time.

Parking regulations for businesses are in city ordinance, but Craig said each business can be evaluated by the city planner to determine if the city can make an exception for that business. 

The ordinance requires restaurants to have at least one parking spot per two seats and retail requires one space for every 200 square feet of area.

“This is a guide, and Appendix A does allow the planning director to look at other circumstances,” Craig said, giving the example of less parking spaces needed for a senior living facility due to lack of cars or driving.

Street closures affect businesses, too, and Grinnell Plaza is a targeted area for contention between parking availability and pedestrian patronage.

Verdello co-owner Kathy Bede expressed concern that closing Grinnell completely would deter patrons. Different ideas of how to best utilize Grinnell were presented at the streetscape meeting and included complete, partial, seasonal and no closures. 

Street closures are almost fully determined by businesses, outside of Third Thursday events and other special occasions. For example, Black Tooth Brewing Company often requests closures for outdoor events on East Alger Street, but other locations require only partial street closures. Craig said with the approval of Wyoming Department of Transportation for each project, the city anticipates experimenting with partial closures in specific parking stalls or in a section of stalls.

Until then, the city anticipates less confusion and more awareness of available parking spaces in the downtown area and the potential for collaboration and cooperation with events in the future.