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City needs more parking spaces, not fewer

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opinion Bemidji, 56619
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

On June 1, the Bemidji City Council was presented with a proposal to alter the plans for parking lot No. 3 on Third Street. It was accompanied by a list of more than 24 businesses and property owners who are concerned with the loss of 16 parking stalls in the busiest parking lot in town. This lot now has 60 parking spaces and is proposed to be reduced to 44.

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This is equivalent to eliminating the diagonal parking on Beltrami Avenue from Fourth to Fifth streets. Sixty spaces is all the parking on Beltrami Avenue from Third to Fifth streets and part of Third Street from Beltrami to Minnesota avenues.

It has been a long-range program for 40-plus years that the survival of the downtown as a commercial area depends on adequate on-street and off-street parking and be looked upon as what is good for the entire downtown, not special interest groups or individuals.

However, the City Council has decided differently on the advice of the Downtown Development Authority which does not represent the majority of businesses and property owners within a city block of this parking lot on the reduction of parking spaces.

In a conversation I had with the city engineer, I asked him why we couldn't leave the parking lot as it is. He said we could, but wouldn't put his initials on it. On our option to even the drives to 15 feet, widen the spaces a foot and repave the entire lot, he could put his signature on this plan just as well as the adopted plan of 44 spaces.

Our appearance before the council and our submitted to them was to bring awareness to the fact that the DDA was not representative of the businesses within a block of this lot and the fact it is possible to retain the lot to a minimum of parking spaces of 52 to 60.

The plan as adopted has several flaws as to safety, user friendliness and controlled parking use. After observing this lot for 36 years, I thought I might be able to enlighten the city engineer on some of the faults of the adopted plan. I invited the city engineer to walk through the lot with me, but he declined. He bluntly said it isn't necessary.

It seems that the DDA and City Council have decided that when vacant store fronts are increasing, business is slower than usual, and the city's revenue is decreasing the solution is to decrease parking availability, make parking less user friendly, and also ignore the pleas of second- and third-generation business and property owners. There is still time for the council to rethink its stand on this parking lot situation.

The reasons the DDA presented to the council for changing the layout of this lot are vague and mostly smoke that seems to lean to a hidden agenda to eventually make the alley between Third and Fourth streets a pedestrian walkway, further hindering access and egress of this lot. Keep in mind a parking lot is a parking lot is a parking lot. An alley is an alley is an alley.

Lloyd Lind owns Lloyd's Furniture at Third Street and is a former Bemidji City Council member.

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