Council eyes neighborhood parking concerns, wants enforceable change

January 9, 2019

Solutions for neighborhood parking pressures might not be as easy as adopting new rules.

Addressing concerns about rented parking spaces in neighborhood backyards, the Rochester City Council acknowledged Monday that the current ban lacks teeth.

“The feedback I got is what’s on the table is a good start, but it’s not enough and it’s not really going to address the issue,” Council Member Michael Wojcik said of the proposed policy changes.

Much of the discussion revolved around concerns in the Kutzky Park neighborhood, which sits in Wojick’s ward, but Council Member Mark Bilderback said concerns are not exclusive to a single neighborhood.

“We have this issue all over the city already,” Bilderback said.

Presented with an option to limit the opportunity to create backyard parking spaces, council members said more needs to be done to ensure change occurs.

“I just want to make sure we’re not starting a significant fight from a position where we have a very weak argument on how to move forward,” Council Member Nick Campion said.

He added that he couldn’t support a rule change that lacks enforcement options.

Rochester Deputy Administrator Aaron Parrish said enforcement is a key issue with the existing ordinance, which states parking spaces on residential properties are for the exclusive use of residents and their guests.

“Our definition of ‘guest’ is very broad,” Parrish said.

Wojcik said he’d like to see changes to add clarity and provide ways neighbors can help identify infractions.

“We know it’s hard to enforce these things, but we have some pretty motivated neighbors,” he said, citing several existing complaints.

Council Member Shaun Palmer, however, said the council should be wary of creating a policy that encourages neighbors to “snitch” on each other. He also noted such pressures should be expected as the city grows.

“That neighborhood is going to be in flux,” he said, noting the Kutzky Park area has a growing number of rental properties and related parking pressures near the Mayo Clinic and Saint Marys Hospital.

Wojcik said renting parking spaces in a residential violates existing city ordinance and should be enforced.

“We know this is happening in a number of places, and we need to be explicit that being found in violation can lead to the revocation or refusal to issue a rental license,” he said.

Parrish said the potential changes reviewed Monday can be altered to meet some of the concerns voiced by council members.

“This is a starting point for the conversation,” he said.

Among other considerations council members raised was the potential for changing current policies regarding residential parking permits, which are used throughout neighborhoods near downtown.

Campion suggested considering a policy to allow daytime parking in neighborhoods but restrict it to local residents at night.

“The overall idea of basically leaving these streets basically underutilized throughout the day is something a lot of communities have taken a look at,” he said. “I think we need to be really open about what we are going to do.”

Other options discussed included posting signs in alleys to raise awareness of regulations and potentially finding ways to monetize on-street parking.

Directing staff to continue efforts, Council President Randy Staver said he agreed with the need for added consideration of options.

“You can have whatever policy you want, but if you can’t effectively enforce it or at least incentivize an alternative, you’re just going to have another problem,” he said.

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