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Parking plan to be developed in BSU neighborhood

BEMIDJI - In an effort to alleviate on-street parking for homeowners and renters near Bemidji State University, the city plans to draft a resolution requiring permits for the neighborhood.

The proposed permit area encompasses on-street parking from Birchmont Drive to Bemidji Avenue and 10th to 17th streets northwest.

"We picked this area because it has the most area for opportunity," said John Chattin, city manager. "Those streets are jammed... it's an absolute mess."

Currently, city ordinance allows for council members to designate a parking permit area, but the neighborhood near BSU would be an experiment.

"If you don't live there, you can't park there," Chattin said Wednesday. "You have to try it and see how it works."

Council member Kevin Waldhausen, who represents Ward 1 and lives in the neighborhood, favors the permits.

For him, it's a quality of life issue for homeowners and renters.

"People are parking on lawns, blocking alleys... People tend to park anywhere," said Waldhausen, who finds himself blocked from leaving his driveway a few times each school year.

"We love living in the college neighborhood. I have great neighbors," Waldhausen said. "Our family and our children benefit from living there."

But he said the area's "livability" could be improved by addressing parking problems.

In the 14 years he's lived in his Bixby Avenue home, Waldhausen said on-street parking has always been an issue. On occasion, he's had to have vehicles towed to exit his driveway in the winter.

He said BSU, which has unused parking spaces on campus, has been good to work with on the issue. Permitting would restrict who could park on neighborhood streets during weekdays while forcing students and faculty to buy lot permits on campus.

Waldhausen said parking problems aren't an issue in the evenings or during weekends, even with football games on campus Fridays and Saturdays.

In a meeting this week between city and BSU staff, the Headwaters Landlord Association and homeowners from the affected area, the group devised several parameters for the neighborhood:

-- Permits would be available for $30 per year only to neighborhood residents - homeowners and renters - and issued for one year, between Aug. 1 to July 31

-- A maximum of 112 permits would be issued on a first-come, first-serve basis

-- Parking restrictions would be enforced between 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays

-- Rental units with inadequate off-street parking, but which have been grandfathered under Bemidji's rental ordinance, would have priority for purchasing permits for residents

-- Visitor permits would be available, free of charge, if needed, and include expiration dates

Chattin said the vast majority of people parking on the streets near BSU are faculty and staff who don't live in the neighborhood. He said the goal would be to develop a resolution for the City Council to consider late this month or early in August.

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.

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