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Wendy Reuer, Published April 16 2012

Moorhead looks to target illegal parking

MOORHEAD – Drivers not following parking rules here could soon see more tickets with higher fines being handed out.

A more aggressive parking enforcement was one of many recommendations brought before the City Council on Monday night that could be used to address heavy street parking, especially around Minnesota State University Moorhead and Concordia College.

“There is not one policy that can be made to solve this problem,” said John Shardlow, senior consultant with Stantec Consulting.

Shardlow presented the results of the more than $29,970 study ordered by the City Council last year after a 2007 neighborhood planning study in which parking was highlighted as a major concern.

The 2011 study examined parking from Third Street South to 17th Street South between Fourth and 16th avenues south.

The study looked at what is causing parking problems and how to fix them. It found areas with a lot of rental properties do not necessarily have high-density street parking, a concern raised in 2007.

The study did find that MSUM has adequate space for parking on campus, but convenience and cost is causing more street parking. Concordia’s problem is nearly opposite: The school does not have enough parking, and parking permits are included in tuition, making cost a nonfactor.

To remedy this, Shardlow suggested encouraging ride sharing, discouraging on-campus students from bringing cars and better promotion of the area’s transit system to increase use is needed.

The study recommendations included changing the city’s snowplow plan to ask residents to park either on the odd- or even-numbered streets during a snow event.

Painting parking spots was also recommended on the streets to make it clear where parking is allowed.

According to the study, 80 percent of neighbors of the schools supported more ticketing of parking violators. Shardlow also suggested towing illegally parked vehicles.

Right now, the city does not have the legal authority to tow vehicles unless someone has five unpaid tickets or is blocking a fire hydrant or snowplow route, Neighborhood Services Manager Lisa Vatnsdal said.

Vatnsdal said on-campus tickets are about $5 to $7 cheaper than city parking fines, so increasing fines could cause more students to pay for MSUM parking passes.

Vatnsdal said the police respond to parking complaints now, but the study recommends taking a more proactive approach, such as a parking enforcement officer.

City Manager Michael Redlinger said increased enforcement could be done by using part-time police officers or working with campus security. He expected to calculate the costs of increased enforcement and other recommendations by the city and return that to the council for a vote at a future meeting.

The majority of the council members said they would support a budget adjustment to implement the recommendations by summer if possible.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530