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Patrick Springer, Published February 02 2013

Neighborhood residents frustrated by lack of parking near Sanford

FARGO – Mary Jane Huber isn’t happy that the entry to her driveway sometimes serves as an auxiliary parking lot for Sanford Medical Center employees.

Huber, who lives across the street from the medical complex at 405 9th Ave. N., frequently finds Sanford employees’ cars blocking access to her driveway.

Three years ago, when backing out of her driveway, she collided with a car she couldn’t see because the view was obstructed by high-profile vehicles.

“They park right at the end of your driveway,” Huber said. “You can’t get out, you can’t get in.”

Representatives of the neighborhood, city and Sanford have discussed possible parking restrictions that could ease the pressure on residential street parking.

That effort, which fell dormant, soon will be resurrected, a neighborhood representative said.

In the meantime, to try to ease parking pressure in residential areas, Sanford maintains shuttle service to a remote lot that runs every 15 minutes and offers free bus passes to employees.

Sanford parking for employees includes a ramp with 1,100 spaces. A few years ago it acquired a former Baptist church, which it razed to add parking space.

Don Marty, Sanford’s vice president for facilities and planning, said the medical center stands ready to work with neighbors on measures to ease parking headaches.

“We think we’ve done a good job of providing alternatives,” he said. Collectively, those options, including satellite lots, bus passes and a shuttle, provide several hundred parking spaces.

Per shift, staffing at Sanford’s downtown medical center exceeds 1,400 employees.

“We also tell our folks they need to be good neighbors,” Marty said. Some employees, however, decide to park on nearby streets for convenience, he said.

Options to address neighborhood concerns were laid out in discussions early last fall, including posting signs restricting parking on certain streets to 90 minutes from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

“It was really up to the neighborhood how they want to do that,” Marty said.

Kim Citrowske, an assistant planner for the city of Fargo, said city leaders are waiting for neighbors to come forward with proposed restrictions on street parking.

If the city agrees with the recommendations, signs announcing them will be posted on boulevards and the city will arrange for enforcement, she said.

“We would try to facilitate a balance for everybody,” Citrowske said.

Rocky Schneider, a leader in the neighborhood group seeking parking solutions, said the effort faded when he became busy with other projects last summer and fall.

“Both the city and Sanford have been good to work with on this,” Schneider said. “They both want to solve this. Sanford wants to be a good neighbor.”

Schneider, who lives at 1013 5th St. N., about 1½ blocks from the medical campus, said streets within a two-block radius become a sprawling parking lot during weekdays.

“Every day my whole street is lined with Sanford cars,” he said. “It’s not a commercial parking lot, and that’s what it’s turned into. Parking lots are dangerous.”

Although many residents have parking in an alley or garage, Schneider said, visitors often have no place to park.

Schneider said he plans to go door-to-door to discuss parking solutions with residents in the neighborhood “whenever it warms up a little bit.”

Meanwhile, increasing growth in patient volumes and increased staffing mean parking pressures will continue, Marty said. Those pressures will be alleviated once Sanford’s new medical center in southwest Fargo opens in 2016, he said.

Until then, however, Sanford does not want to invest in additional parking ramp space for its downtown campus, Marty added.


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Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522