A proposed four-hour parking ban on Brainerd streets during winter months appears dead before its arrival to the Brainerd City Council.
On Monday, the council directed staff to draft a proposed ordinance that would ban parking on all city streets from 2-6 a.m. from Nov. 1-April 1. Downtown streets would be excluded from the ordinance.
A city plow cleared southwest Brainerd streets last December. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls
Though it wasn't specified in the council's direction, which was approved by a 5-2 vote, the purpose of the ordinance would be to allow snowplowing crews to respond early rather than waiting for a day for a snow emergency to be declared, City Engineer Jeff Hulsether told the council Monday.
Currently, the city declares a snow emergency and bans parking on east-west running streets one day and north-south routes on the next day.
The recommendation for the proposed ordinance came from the Safety and Public Works Committee. Committee chairman and council member Bob Olson said this past spring the committee asked Hulsether to bring back a snowplowing policy after the city's street department complained of having to plow around cars that remained on the street.
Though he voted in favor of having staff develop an ordinance to ban parking on Monday, on Wednesday Olson said he's changed his mind and sent a letter to Hulsether asking him to do more research, including looking at snowplowing policies in other cities and to bring another recommendation back to the committee.
"Banning parking for four hours, from 2-6 a.m., on all the streets is not going to work," Olson said. "It's too much of an inconvenience. ... Rest assured, this present (proposal), as far as I'm concerned, is going to be shelved."
Hulsether could not be reached for comment Wednesday. City Administrator Dan Vogt said his office had not received any calls from residents about the proposed ordinance but he understood several council members had.
Vogt said he understood the frustration of homeowners with small lots with nowhere else to park.
"It would be a pretty major change in the way we do business," Vogt said.
Voting Monday against having the parking ban ordinance drafted were council members Kelly Bevans and Mary Koep. On Wednesday both said they were sticking by their votes.
"Can you imagine no parking on any city street, no overnight parking on any city street, from November to April?" Bevans said. "First of all, I want to buy a tow truck because the only people that would be happy on that deal will be the tow companies."
Bevans figured 80 percent of the people in Ward 2 in north Brainerd, which he represents, park on the street. He said he's received several phone calls from residents, all of whom have been against such an ordinance.
"We're going to have a citizen revolt," if the ordinance is adopted, Bevans said.
He also questioned whether such an ordinance would drive people to move out of the city.
"I understand the difficulties in plowing but without citizens no reason to plow. There's not going to be anybody left, they're all going to leave. It's going to create an enforcement and political nightmare."
Koep said the city should instead enforce what is already in place for snowplowing - doing north-south or east-west running streets one day and switching the next day.
"This (proposed ordinance) seems so punitive," Koep said. "We are an old community, many of the housing areas are old. There's no place for people to go."
At Monday's meeting, council member Anne Nelson Fisher and Council President Kevin Goedker voted in favor of having staff draft an ordinance but expressed doubt that they would vote in favor of it.
Fisher said she's also received a few phone calls about the proposed ordinance with none speaking in favor of it. She said it wasn't reasonable to try to impose a complete ban on city streets when most city residential lots are so small they can't accommodate parking for more than one vehicle. People with more than one vehicle need off-street parking, she said.
Fisher said she'd prefer to see no parking on east-west streets one night and no parking on north-south streets the next night throughout the winter.
"I would like to see us be more efficient about snowplowing," Fisher said. "I'd like to see some kind of change but I think a complete ban on parking on all streets every night is just too difficult for a city like Brainerd that's so densely developed.
Goedker, too, has been getting phone calls from people upset about the proposed ordinance.
"Obviously I can understand the reason for it but I don't see it as feasible in a lot of ways," Goedker said. "Residents don't want that headache and also trying to manage it with the police department, it seems like a lot more of a hassle than we'd be able to manage."
Like Fisher, Goedker noted a lot of residences only have enough off-street parking for one vehicle while many families own two vehicles.
Council members Bonnie Cumberland and Lucy Nesheim serve on the Safety and Public Works Committee with Olson and voted in favor of staff drafting an ordinance banning parking.
Nesheim said it was her understanding that the ban would only go into effect when a snow emergency was declared. She said that point wasn't brought up at Monday's council meeting or included in the motion directing staff to draft the ordinance.
Nesheim said she would not vote in favor of a complete ban on city streets for four hours during winter months.
"It's unfortunate that wasn't made clear when the motion was brought forward because that's what we talked about in committee," Nesheim said. "(Hulsether) is just directed to figure out a policy and bring it back to us. It's not a done deal and some people feel like it's a done deal. We're just exploring the issue. Snow emergencies have been a problem so we're looking at other solutions and what we can do to make it better."
Cumberland, too, said she's interested in something that would get snowplowing done in a more efficient manner.
"If this ordinance goes through there has to be a lot of education and a lot of enforcement that goes with it," Cumberland said.
Before it is enacted a proposed ordinance must first go through two readings by the city council at separate meetings and a public hearing.
MATT ERICKSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5857.
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