The downtown YMCA is in a parking jam after losing more than 70 spaces south of State Street to Boise Plaza workers' cars.
"We have people that can't walk on a treadmill for five minutes," said Downtown YMCA director Cliff Naumann. "It's just not feasible to ask them to ride their bikes for a half an hour to the Y."
In its desperation to find a place for 4,000 to 7,000 daily exercise-aholics, many of whom drive to the gym, the Y made a deal with the nearby Cathedral of the Rockies to park on a vacant lot about three blocks away.
But the North End Neighborhood Association does not like the plan, or city planners' recommendation that a temporary parking lot in the North End warrants a special permit.
"NENA has a problem with what we feel is the city's questionable use of a process called 'special exemption,' which allows zoning to be overridden for reasons that are not always clear," association president Kevin McGowan told BW in an e-mail.
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The Y needs parking spots for 10 months, after which the State Street lot is expected to reopen.
"It's just a 10-month massive inconvenience," Naumann said.
The solution he found would be to take an empty church-owned lot between Fort and Hays streets, throw down some compacted gravel and some landscaping, and stick a mess of Subarus on it through the winter.
Boise Planning and Zoning approved the special exception for a parking lot, but the Historic Preservation Commission vetoed it, agreeing with North End Neighborhood Association objections. The Boise City Council hears an appeal on July 8.
The neighborhood association wants the vacant lot to become a community garden and has offered the Y a scooter to auction off to help solve its parking problem, along with 10 other creative parking suggestions.
But Naumann said Y visitors are not going to drive around in circles looking for a spot. They'll just stop working the treadmill.
"I wish we could use five spaces here and five spaces three other blocks away, but people just won't," he said.