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The City of Rochester is considering changes to its parking option in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Post Bulletin file photo)

Downtown parking options continue to grow amid economic stress related to COVID-19 concerns.

Following online complaints from businesses with ticketed customers on Monday, city administration issued a 30-day moratorium on parking meter enforcement.

“This temporary measure, supported by the Chamber of Commerce and the Rochester Downtown Alliance, is subject to change as necessary to meet the needs of the community,” the city stated in announcing the change Tuesday.

The city is also encouraging people to limit the use of metered spaces to short-term stays.

Downtown businesses providing take-out services already had the opportunity to reserve some spaces by obtaining right-of-way permits from the city’s Public Works Department, email pwpermits@rochestermn.gov.

The option follows a statewide ban on in-restaurant dining.

Public Works staff reported during a recent Rochester City Council meeting that a typical parking meter generates approximately $1,000 a year.

The change follows an earlier decision to suspend residential parking permit zones until the end of March. Seasonal parking requirements also ended early to open parking opportunities near the downtown core.

All other parking ordinances remain in effect, including overnight parking restrictions and no parking zones, such as driveways, fire hydrants and mailboxes.

Additional changes could be considered.

On Monday, Rochester City Council members raised questions regarding a request to suspend contract parking fees in city ramps.

“Employers are paying for parking for employees who they are allowing/requiring to work from home to support the general welfare of the community,” Kathleen Harrington, president of the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce, wrote in a letter to the council. “Please suspend these fees now.”

Harrington said the fees, which are $224 a month for an assigned commercial space, are a significant part of small-business operating budgets in a time when revenue potential is limited.

“During this time, employers must be able to keep their spaces in reserve and not have to go back on to the waiting list,” she added.

Council members asked for details regarding potential revenue implications for city budgets, as well as options for policy changes.

The city has formed an Economic Stability Program planning team, which is expected to review the request and evaluate the potential financial impact.

“It’s part of a larger effort seeking to address the immediate financial needs of the local business community as a result of the recent COVID-19 pandemic. The effort includes representatives from the city, Rochester Downtown Alliance, Rochester Area Economic Development Inc., Destination Medical Center’s Economic Development Agency and the chamber.

“Success of small businesses is vital to our city’s economy,” Council Member Steve Rymer said. “We are working closely every day with our community partners to actively explore a range of relief options to help these businesses in need."

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