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City to review parking policies near UMM

By Tom Larson

Sun Tribune

The City of Morris will once again review parking regulations on residential streets near the University of Minnesota, Morris.

The City Council on Tuesday directed City Attorney Charles Glasrud to work with Morris Police and UMM officials to devise workable parking procedures and ways for law enforcement to manage them.

City Manager Blaine Hill and Morris Chief of Police Jim Beauregard addressed the issue at a meeting earlier this month, and on Tuesday the council asked Glasrud to meet with UMM officials about off-street parking and possible ways to urge more drivers to use campus parking lots.

Currently, the areas near the campus are posted for three-hour parking and resident-only parking. But both are difficult to enforce.

Resident-only parking forces officers to determine which vehicles belong to residents, and Hill stated he didn't believe it would be enforceable in court. Three-hour parking requires officers to continually mark vehicles as they come and go. The limit also doesn't competely solve a lack of parking for residents, and they, too, would be required to move their cars regularly.

Fines will be discussed, and Hill said the most important aspect is making sure any parking plans are "legal and enforceable." He also hinted in a memo to the council that a pat solution might not be entirely possible.

"I think the unspoken issue is that people live next to the university and you can't change that," Hill stated. "You are going to have a tremendous amount of activity around the university and at some point you have to live with it."

There are no alleys behind houses between Second and Third streets and on Columbia to College avenues, and residents don't have much parking space in front. The problem is exacerbated if a resident has a trailer or equipment, Hill said.

In other council business:

• The council chose to not pursue building a bike path extension on Morris' west side near Highway 28.

Residents in the neighborhood on West 4th Street have been asking for some time to have the bike path extended along Highway 28 to West 3rd Avenue.

However, the Minnesota Department of Transportation controls the right of way and stated in a July 2007 memo that it saw no need for an extension to the existing trail.

Without MnDOT approval, the city is unable to do the work, even if funds were made available, Hill said.

The council did consider an option for a sidewalk or a boulevard bike path -- which at 8-feet wide would be significantly more expensive than a 5-foot sidewalk. However, all costs for sidewalks typically are assessed to property owners. If the city adopted a similar stance to that used on Columbia Avenue, property owners still would be assessed about 50 percent of the costs unless grant money could be found, Hill said.

• The council heard from homeowner Jim Storck about a possible nuisance property next to his.

Storck complained of litter, broken glass, uncollected bags of garbage and a lawn that is rarely mowed.

City officials have talked to the tenants of the property, as well as a caretaker and the owner. However, the city must first respond to three calls about nuisance properties before citations can be issued.

Hill said property owners are frustrated by the drawn-out process, adding that he'd like to determine if citations could legally be issued immediately if a property is considered a nuisance.

"We have to find a procedure that works, that's on-the-spot," Hill said.

Glasrud and Hill will examine the issue further and report to the council in the future.