With blizzards a recent memory, Roseville looks at updated snow parking rules

On May 14, just a month removed from the season’s last major snowfall, the Roseville City Council discussed potential changes to how the city manages parking when the snow flies.

The discussion arose from consistent complaints about vehicles not being moved during and after snowstorms, resulting in difficulties for city crews in plowing roads.

Though council members came to a consensus that something had to be done to improve the city’s current ambiguous rules regarding snow event parking — a seasonal overnight parking ban, with exceptions, was one of the more popular options — they took no action, wanting to revisit the topic with more insights from the public and other communities.

Public Works Director Marc Culver introduced the issue and outlined the city’s current “snowbird parking ordinance” — “that’s what we call it,” he said.

City code says parking is restricted “on any street for a period of 48 hours commencing immediately after any two inches or more continuous snowfall or until snow removal has been completed on any street, whichever occurs first.”

Just how much snow has fallen at any given spot in the city and how residents interpret the frozen precipitation in the first place were the key difficulties mentioned when it comes to enforcing the current ordinance.

Culver presented a handful of options for the council, based on what other metro cities do. 

Roseville could join St. Paul and Minneapolis, as well as suburbs like Bloomington and St. Louis Park, in calling snow emergencies, he said, or it could look at what other smaller communities do, with year-round or seasonal overnight, on-street parking bans.

 

What about equity?

Switching to a snow emergency model was a non-starter for council members, who were concerned with the city’s ability to get the word out about calling an emergency. 

Culver said that while city officials and other residents have easy access to email blasts and twitter messages, others in the city may not be as well connected to city communications — it’s an issue of equity.

Mayor Dan Roe said there was a general difficulty in getting information to the public about winter parking rules — many residents likely don’t know about the two-inch rule.

Culver, who as public works director is in charge of city snow plowing, was much more bullish about some form of an overnight on-street parking ban. He said it’s a clear policy and would take care of other issues. For instance, if public works needs to do road maintenance, it would be able to assume the roadway would be clear.

An all-out ban would also have equity issues, Culver said, pointing out that the Sienna Green affordable housing complex’s designated and city-approved parking is on-street, and students who attend the University of Northwestern also regularly have nowhere else to park but in the street.

Council member Tammy McGehee called the Sienna Green parking situation a “problem we created ourselves,” though she, along with other council members, was less sympathetic to the plight of Northwestern students who park up and down Lydia Avenue just west of Snelling Avenue near the university.

McGehee also brought up resident complaints about police enforcement of the snowbird parking ordinance, explaining that she’d been told some find it to be arbitrarily enforced.

 

The police

 point of view

Roseville police Chief Rick Mathwig pushed back on McGehee’s assertion that enforcement of the ordinance is inconsistent, explaining how his officers approach snowstorm parking.

He said that for the past winter’s snow storms, officers issued a balanced mix of parking warnings, which do not carry a fine, as well as actual citations, which come with a $25 fine.

Either of the two can still get a person’s car towed, though Mathwig said drivers are given half a day to move their vehicles, with some added leeway built into Roseville PD policy.

“Since the day I was ever born in this department, it’s been 12 hours [that] we wait,” Mathwig said. “And we don’t go 12:01 — we go 13, 14 hours before we tow.”

He said only three or four cars are towed for every 100-or-so citations that officers issue, noting that each ticket comes with a bright orange marker that drivers should have no trouble seeing.

Mathwig also mentioned personally dealing with a situation in which multiple complaints came in about a particular car in a neighborhood, and instead of citing the owner or towing the car, he and a community service officer worked with the owner, who had little money, to find a solution and ultimately get the car moved.

He also said that for the winter of 2016-2017, the department gave management of the large apartment buildings in town information about winter parking rules, and though the department didn’t do so this past winter, he guaranteed it would be done again once snow is imminent this year.

Mathwig also pointed out that his officers use some common sense when enforcing the ordinance. For instance, if one side of a road is plowed and the other is not, people who park on the plowed side need not worry about a citation even if snow removal isn’t completed for the whole street.

 

Still time

Council members Bob Willmus and Jason Etten joined McGehee in leaning towards a seasonal parking ban with exceptions for areas that lack off-street parking alternatives.

Roe was more cautious about vocally backing the option, saying he’d want to hear from the public and other communities before revisiting and taking action on updating the ordinance — he said the council ought to have a bit of breathing room when it comes to working on the matter.

“We do have a little bit of time to put something in place now because, theoretically, we don’t have any more snow events coming up,” he said.

“At least until September,” Willmus deadpanned.

Though there’s no set date, City Manager Pat Trudgeon said the council will revisit snow storm parking regulations later this summer.

 

– Mike Munzenrider can be reached at mmunzenrider@lillienews.com or 651-748-7813

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