by Sarah Squires
A plan for a residential parking permit system around Winona State University may not be off the table yet, even though city leaders voted the plan down earlier this month.
Council member Deb Salyards confirmed that the city will form a subcommittee of sorts, including some of those tapped to study the concept over the last year. They’ll meet in early January to review the plans and try to come up with a compromise the council would vote for. Salyards said the group will also try to find a way to more effectively communicate the plan’s positives to residents who indicated they were mostly wary of the idea in a survey of property owners compiled in recent weeks.
Under the initial proposal, streets within a two-block radius of the WSU campus would be included in the permit system, which would provide parking permits to residents to be used only during the day while school is in session. And while Salyards said that the subcommittee won’t be reinventing the wheel, it may extend the concept to a three-block radius from campus.
The prior committee, composed of city officials, WSU officials, WSU student representatives, landlords and nearby residents, spent a year working out the kinks in the plan, and Salyards said that the City Council didn’t review the proposed system very carefully. Instead of holding a separate informational meeting to ensure that council members were very familiar with the concept, city leaders’ reviews were sandwiched into a public hearing session, she said.
“I think [the proposal] got kind of pushed through,” said Salyards. “The council didn’t really have a clue about what they were looking at.”
There were solutions to questions about the new system that weren’t communicated effectively to the City Council, said Salyards, and many of the assets of the plan were overlooked. For instance, she said, city staff estimated that permit parking would free up about 30 percent of the parking stalls on a given block. And, she said, even the worse case scenario shows the system paying for its own enforcement, especially with student turnover from year to year.
Several residents spoke during the public hearing earlier this month who felt it was high time the city did something to try to ease the parking congestion around the university. And Salyards agrees. The argument that Winona is a small city, she said, doesn’t fly anymore.
“We’re a high density city,” said Salyards. “Eight thousand of your citizens are right smack-dab in the center of the city.”
Council member Gerry Krage, who voted against the parking permit system earlier this month, will join the new subcommittee. Salyards said he approached her earlier this month to see if a compromise can be made.
Similar permit systems have worked for other communities, said Salyards, and it’s time to test the waters here, too. “I think our feeling is give us a trial period, let’s see if it works, and if it doesn’t, we’ll be the first ones who want to scrap it,” she said. “It still may be dead in the water, but at least we’ll look and see.”