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Rochester's seasonal parking restrictions could be revisited

City Council will consider request for review of ordinance that requires alternate side parking on most residential streets from Oct. 1 to May 1.

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A sign lets drivers know of Rochester's seasonal parking restrictions Thursday, April 1, 2021, in Rochester. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)
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The future of Rochester’s seasonal parking ordinance could face a new review.

“We have to do something different than what we are doing,” said Rochester City Council member Shaun Palmer, who initiated a request to review the ordinance.

The seasonal policy adopted in 2019 limits on-street parking from Oct. 1 to May 1 to alternate sides of the street between 2 a.m. and 3 p.m.

The goal is to increase effectiveness of snowplows, as well as make room for spring and fall street sweeping and other maintenance.

RELATED: 7 things about the seasonal parking ordinance

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Many residents, however, object to the policy, saying it is confusing and often not enforced.

“I think what we have is not workable,” said Rochester resident Fran Bradley, who started an online petition in January, which had 443 signatures as of 9 a.m. Friday.

Bradley said he’d like to see city staff develop a plan that offers more balance by targeting days snow actually needs to be plowed, rather than imposing a threat of ticketing throughout seven months.

“We need to balance what is best for the citizens, residents and guests in our community against what is the easiest, supposedly, for the people running our snowplows,” he said. “I think there can be a middle ground that works.”

He said he understands the need for a policy to ensure streets are plowed, but added that he’s seen better policies implemented in other cities.

A report by Rochester Public Works lists policies in 26 cities -- the state’s 15 largest and 11 smaller cities close to Rochester -- and found policies range from declaring a snow emergency when snow has fallen to banning all on-street parking during specific nighttime hours.

The majority of smaller cities, including Mankato where Rochester City Administrator Alison Zelms served as deputy city manager until earlier this year, implement a snow emergency when needed.

Minneapolis and St. Paul implement even-odd parking requirements only after a snow emergency is declared.

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Palmer and Bradley said they believe some sort of modified policy based on a snow emergency would work in Rochester.

In a January memo to the city council, Rochester Public Works Director Wendy Turri said past efforts to use snow emergencies were unsuccessful.

“There was little compliance during snow emergencies, likely due to confusion over the requirements or residents not being aware of the declaration,” she wrote. “It was an overwhelming, impossible task for the police department to enforce a snow emergency while also providing the critical services required during a snow event.”

Turri said the seasonal policy has seen increased compliance in its third year and resulted in more effective snow removal.

On Monday, the city council will be asked whether it wants to direct city staff to look at current practices and related cost savings while also taking a closer look at creating a snow-emergency ordinance to replace the seasonal parking requirement.

“This is the time of the year to do this stuff, not in November when it might snow,” said Palmer, who was joined by council member Mark Bransford in requesting the action.

The city council has changed its regular meeting time to 6 p.m. starting Monday, with meetings continuing to be held using online software. Monday’s meeting will livestream at www.rochestermn.gov/agendas and be available on Spectrum cable channel 180 or 188 and Metronet channel 80.

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UPCOMING MEETINGS

Meetings scheduled to be held during the week of April 5 include:

Rochester

• City Council, 6 p.m. Monday. The meeting will livestream at www.rochestermn.gov/agendas and available on Spectrum cable channel 180 or 188 and Metronet channel 80. The council will meet as the city’s Economic Development Authority during the meeting.

• Airport Commission, 2 p.m. Tuesday. Video will be posted at www.rochestermn.gov/agendas following the meeting.

• Park Board, 4:30 p.m. Tuesday. Dial-in information for listening to the meeting live can be requested by emailing parknrec@rochestermn.gov. Video will be posted online following the meeting.

• Ethical Practices Board, 10 a.m. Wednesday. Dial-in information is available at www.rochestermn.gov/agendas . Video of the meeting will be posted the following day.

• Zoning Board of Appeals, 6 p.m. Wednesday. Access information is available at www.rochestermn.gov/agendas .

Olmsted County

• Administrative Committee, 8 a.m. Tuesday in the board chambers of the government center. Information for connecting to the meeting is posted at https://olmstedcounty.primegov.com/public/portal .

• Physical Development Committee, 8 a.m. Tuesday in conference room 2 of the government center. Information for connecting to the meeting is posted at https://olmstedcounty.primegov.com/public/portal .

• Board of County Commissioners, 9 a.m. Tuesday in the board chambers of the government center. The meetings will livestream at https://olmstedcounty.primegov.com/public/portal .

• Health, Housing and Human Services Committee, 10 a.m. Wednesday in the board chambers of the government center. Information for online viewing is available at https://olmstedcounty.primegov.com/public/portal .

• Zumbro River One Watershed One Plan Policy Committee, 9 a.m. Thursday. Access information is available at https://olmstedcounty.primegov.com/public/portal .

• Human Rights Commission, 6 p.m. Thursday. Access information is available at https://olmstedcounty.primegov.com/public/portal .

Rochester Public Schools

• School Board, 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in the boardroom of the Edison Building, 615 Seventh St. SW. Meeting will livestream at YouTube.com/ISD535 .

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A car is plowed in Wednesday in Rochester. (Traci Westcott / twestcott@postbulletin.com)

Randy Petersen joined the Post Bulletin in 2014 and became the local government reporter in 2017. An Elkton native, he's worked for a variety of Midwest papers as reporter, photographer and editor since graduating from Winona State University in 1996. Readers can reach Randy at 507-285-7709 or rpetersen@postbulletin.com.
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