Each year, autumn brings more than changing leaves and crisp temperatures to Brooklyn Park. Fall is also when the city’s contentious on-street parking rule takes effect.
The city of 80,000 residents bans street parking between 2 and 5 a.m. from Oct. 15 to April 15 to allow for snow removal. But city leaders in the past year have debated making changes to the rule, weighing whether to shorten the overnight parking ban by a month, extend it year-round or keep it as is.
The much-debated issue came up for discussion at a recent City Council meeting, where it was again evident that city leaders and residents alike remain split on how to move forward.
“It’s one of those issues where clearly the community is divided,” City Manager Jay Stroebel said. “We’re going to continue to wrestle with this.”
A recent community poll showed that about 46 percent of those surveyed favored reducing restrictions, while about 36 percent supported more restrictions and 19 percent would like to keep parking rules the same.
Proponents of shortening the ban point to a growing need for more parking in some areas, especially near apartments and in large households with more vehicles than their driveways can hold. Police say they plan to contact apartment managers in the coming months to dig into potential issues with current parking policies and permitting.
But others would like to see the current rule more consistently enforced or even extended all year. Nearby cities like Brooklyn Center and Plymouth enforce a continuous ban on overnight street parking.
Those who support tighter rules cite concerns over how neighborhood streets congested with parked cars can make access difficult for emergency vehicles and snowplows.
At Monday’s meeting, most City Council members said they favor a year-round ban and would also like to see police crack down on current rule breakers.
“For me, this isn’t just curb appeal. This is public safety,” Council Member Rich Gates said. “I’m in favor of hiring part-time people or whatever it takes and enforce this rule.”
Some city leaders favor stricter towing policies. “People don’t learn and don’t listen until something drastic takes place,” Council Member Bob Mata said. “If they come out in the morning to go to work and their car is gone, they won’t do it again.”
Police say they’ve stepped up enforcement this year, doling out more than double the tickets to vehicles violating the overnight ban. They’ve given out 2,504 citations so far this winter, compared with 1,165 in the winter of 2016-17.
Police Chief Craig Enevoldsen told council members that he worries extending the ban will only exacerbate enforcement issues and taint community-police relations in parts of the city where on-street parking is a problem.
“We’re creating a bigger problem than we have now,” Enevoldsen said. “If we’re going to truly enforce that 365 [days], we’d have to make some kind of investment into somebody doing that kind of work.”
City officials point out that parking issues often take a back seat to crime. Police say Brooklyn Park recently hit a 32-year crime low.
Officials expect to make a decision about the on-street rule in time for the next snow season.
“We want to do something that works for the community,” Stroebel said. “We know it’s not an easy situation.”