Inver Grove Heights is discussing whether the city has a problem with residents parking cars, boats, RVs and other equipment on front lawns.
The city is considering a parking ordinance to forbid parking those items — along with snowmobiles, ATVs and trailers — on the grass in front yards, but still allowing parking on side or rear yards. After two years of occasional complaints, the City Council and city staff are asking the public for its input.
"We've known for a long time that the [city] code is real vague — it doesn't really address parking that well," said City Planner Allan Hunting, who is collecting input by e-mail. "It's just one of those things that you don't tackle until there seem to be some concerns."
Those in support of a change are concerned about aesthetics in their neighborhood, and possible impact on property values.
"They just think some properties look kind of junky when there's cars and things parked all over," Hunting said. There are also some who are against restrictions or regulations. "That will be looked at, too," Hunting said. "Some think it's not something the city should be bothering with."
Concerns about property values are a common theme for those in support of restrictions. "Obviously because of the complaints there's that perception that [it hurts property values]," said Inver Grove Heights Community Development Director Tom Link. "Whether it's a reality or not, I don't know."
Inver Grove Heights City Administrator Joe Lynch said although the city has not received a large number of complaints, there are certain areas of the city that seem to be more problematic. "We do have pockets throughout the city where there are more vehicles, equipment, boats, trailers, RVs parked [on front lawns] than in other areas," he said. "We're trying not to confuse it with, or get people riled up about, parking in the side yard or rear yard."
Inver Grove Heights may be catching up to surrounding cities in updating its parking ordinance, based on Hunting's research.
"Most have some restrictions — if you're parking vehicles, they should be on a hard, paved surface [according to surrounding city codes]," Hunting said. "We're finding that that was a common thread. They weren't necessarily restricting location."
He added there was no consensus among cities in restricting parking, and some limit the number of items that could be parked on the property or detail the amount of area that could be used for parking. But it's not likely that Inver Grove Heights would restrict parking to only paved surfaces, because the city is not considering banning parking in side or rear yards.
"Apparently we don't get the complaints about side yard and rear yard parking," Hunting said. "It doesn't appear to be an issue." He added that the first complaints were about very large boats parked in front yards.
The issue has been a topic of a work session earlier this year. This month, the city posted information on its website and started soliciting e-mail comments, and posted an announcement in its newsletter to invite input. Comments will be taken for the next month or so, and the council is expected to review resident input at a meeting this fall. Comments have not yet been reviewed by the city's planning commission, Link said.
More information about the proposed ordinance can be found at www.ci.inver-grove-heights.mn.us; click on "Proposed Front Yard Parking Regulations" on the right side of the page. Comments can be e-mailed to the city at firstname.lastname@example.org.