by CHRIS ROGERS
At least three of Winona’s seven City Council members want to reconsider the citywide 20-hour limit on on-street parking. “I think it could be longer, whether it’s 24 or 48 or 72 [hours], I don’t know, but i think it’s worth revisiting,” Mayor Mark Peterson said in an interview last week.
Earlier this month, at the council’s September 5 meeting, Peterson and council members George Borzyskowski and Paul Schollmeier all raised the issue and called on the city to review the rule. Schollmeier said he had heard from a couple who had both of their cars impounded while they were on vacation, costing them thousands of dollars, while Peterson talked about speaking with Winonans whose motorhome was towed. They parked on the street for a couple days while packing up for a big trip, he said. “It just seems like 20 hours might be a little restrictive,” Peterson said at the meeting.
Peterson had suggested that city staff and the Planning Commission study the issue and provide a recommendation to the council. However, Winona City Manager Steve Sarvi said he will ask the council for more direction at its next meeting on October 2. “Before we put a whole lot of extra time on this thing, I want to understand whether the council really wants us to look into this,” Sarvi explained in an interview. “The police are saying there isn’t really a huge outcry of concern on this.”
On the other hand, Sarvi stated that extending the limit to 72 hours might be workable. “If a person parks in front of their house and leaves for the weekend, giving them three days seems to make sense,” he said.
The council members’ requests came after the Winona Post’s August 30 article on the 20-hour parking rule, the stories of a few of the 351 people ticketed for violating the rule since 2014, and Winona Deputy Police Chief Tom Williams’ statement that, in his experience, some people report 20-hour parking violations for other reasons. “That is a concern if you don’t get along with your neighbor. It may not be parking and may be something else, and this is a way to try and impart some inconvenience to you. I think it’s probably utilized,” he said.
Like many city ordinances, including mowing and snow-removal requirements, enforcement of the 20-hour parking rule is complaint-driven. The rule is commonly violated, but city staff — in this case, police — do not spend their time looking for cars that have been parked on the street too long. If someone complains, staff check it out. Whether a given citizen can leave their vehicle on the street all week with no repercussions or whether it is towed away within a day depends, at least in part, on whether their neighbors care.
During a past discussion of snow removal, council member Gerry Krage encouraged concerned citizens to inform the property owner of the problem, neighbor-to-neighbor, before calling city hall. Sometimes, the city is the first call. “That’s unfortunate,” Sarvi said in a recent interview regarding the 20-hour parking rule. “You would hope you could just walk across the street and get it clarified, but there’s also a lot of concern about letting people park their cars on the street for an extended period of time and not moving them.”
There is a legitimate reason for this rule: streets are not for long-term parking, Peterson said. “You don’t want somebody who’s got a boat or a big pontoon and they park out in front of your house and leave it there,” he stated in an interview. “I think there’s a legitimate reason to limit the number of hours that people can leave something on the street.” Twenty hours, however, might be a little short, he stated.
Extending the time limit near Winona State University’s campus, where parking congestion is among the worst in the city, might not be workable, Peterson added. However, the rule could potentially be different in different geographic zones, he suggested.
Because Winona police give 20-hour-parking-rule violators four hours to discover that they have been ticketed and move the car before police call the tow truck, Winona’s 20-hour rule is effectively a 24-hour rule, Sarvi explained.
Sarvi added that the Winona Police Department had input for the council on the enforceability of various options for how and whether to change the rule. Police Chief Paul Bostrack was not available for comment.
The St. Charles City Council is also reviewing its citywide time limit on street parking, but for the opposite reason: because of complaints about people leaving work vehicles and trailers on the street too long, according to Mayor John Schaber. St. Charles’ current limit is 48 hours, and Michael Flaherty, who works as a city attorney for both St. Charles and Winona, reviewed several other cities’ rules to help the St. Charles City Council compare. “Of the other city parking codes that I reviewed, four cities limited parking to 48 hours, two cities limited parking to 24 hours, two cities had no limitation, one city limited parking to 72 hours, and one city limited parking to 20 hours,” Flaherty wrote. St. Charles’ new ordinance leaves the 48-hour limit unchanged, but clarifies that trucks and trailers are subject to the rule and that exceptions are only granted for vehicles involved in an adjacent construction project for the duration of the project.
Keep reading the Winona Post for more on this story.