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Landlords oppose BSU neighborhood parking permit proposal

BEMIDJI - A local landlord group is opposing an experimental parking permit plan for a neighborhood adjacent to Bemidji State University.

"The best solution to a problem is the simplest one," Duane Sea, president of the Headwaters Landlord Association, said Friday. "This one doesn't seem simple."

The association, which held its quarterly meeting Thursday, has taken a stand against the city's proposal to offer 112 on-street permits, for $30 apiece, to residents living between Birchmont Drive to Bemidji Avenue and 10th to 17th streets northwest.

As currently drafted, the proposal would offer the permits on a first-come, first-serve basis for residents. The proposal aims to force nonresidents - mainly BSU students and faculty - to park on campus and alleviate issues like blocked driveways, vehicles on lawns and residents walking blocks to reach their homes. Parking restrictions would be enforced between 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.

But the Headwaters Landlord Association sees several problems with the proposal.

"We fear this is only the beginning to make all curbside parking within the city by permit only," Sea said. "We fear the cost will escalate as the city discovers an additional revenue stream."

He also said the current proposal is overly cumbersome, confusing and difficult to enforce.

The landlord association isn't opposed to fixing the problem, or permits if needed, but Sea said there's a simpler solution.

Association members believe the city should provide one free pass to each resident living in the area. Those residents already pay taxes, and improvements to streets, sidewalks and curbs, Sea said.

And visitors, such as family, or contractors, shouldn't be required to get a guest pass from City Hall each time they visit someone who lives in the neighborhood, he said.

The association also suggests a second tier of permits that could be developed for faculty and students, but at a cost greater than BSU's $105 per year permit to park on campus, Sea said.

The intent, he said, should be to discourage curbside parking by faculty and students and encourage on-campus parking.

"I think the landlord association needs to allow us to give this a try," City Manager John Chattin said Friday in response.

There are 112 parking spots available in the proposed permit area.

"We don't know what the demand will be from the current residents," said Chattin, adding the city is proposing the permit area as an experiment in response to residential concerns and results of a Quality Neighborhood Study last year.

"The parking issues in the area we are looking at vary from block to block," Chattin said. "We have received a lot complaints from residents about parking."

While some won't like the idea of charging for the permit, Chattin said the money collected by the city won't rival costs for the pilot program.

Residents can't expect the city to work toward a solution and expect it to be cost-free, he said.

Bemidji will incur costs for printing permits, erecting two signs and posts on each side of each block within the neighborhood and dedicate more staff for parking enforcement, Chattin said.

"If there's permit parking, there will be increased enforcement," he said.

Currently, plans would be to write tickets to violators. Parking tickets cost $10 or $20, depending on where the violation occurs.

Bill Maki, vice president for finance and administration at BSU, said the university is committed to working with the city to address neighborhood parking problems.

For the 2011-12 academic year, BSU collected $173,375 for parking permits. A permit will cost $105 for the upcoming academic year.

There are about 1,600 parking spots in lots on campus, and BSU sells approximately 1,700 permits each year. However, not everyone with a permit is on campus at the same time.

Maki said BSU's parking lots, particularly at Bangsberg Hall, can handle more vehicles.

"This is being looked at as a pilot (program) and how effective it will be will have to be evaluated," Maki said. "There won't be a perfect solution from the get go."

BSU officials are committed to find a solution and reduce the stress of parking problems on nearby neighborhoods, he said.

"We want to be at the table with the city to address these issues," Maki said.

A proposed resolution likely will be up for discussion at the City Council's Aug. 6 meeting.

Steve Wagner

Grand Forks Herald Editor Steve Wagner can be reached at 701.780.1104 and He joined the Herald in April 2013, and previously worked as editor at the Bemidji (Minn.) Pioneer and in several roles -- including news director, investigative reporter and crime reporter - at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. His reporting experience includes coverage of Dru Sjodin's disappearance and the federal death penalty case for her murderer, Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., along with several investigative projects. In his spare time, Wagner is an avid runner and occasionally writes about his experiences on his blog, Addicted to Running.

(701) 780-1104