Cape task force considering parking districts

Thursday, January 3, 2008

The last big decision for Cape Girardeau's parking task force is whether to recommend creating residential parking districts.

City planner Martha Brown said the districts being discussed would limit on-street parking around Southeast Missouri State University. The parking permits would be issued by the city.

"Each house would have a certain number of permits that they would put in their vehicles so they could park on the street," she said.

The problem with parking districts, Brown said, is "they are burdensome to property owners. The property owners have to supply a lot of information to the jurisdiction, and the jurisdiction has to take time to enact and enforce the parking."

She said some costs would also be involved, but no figures had been suggested.

Task force member Kim Ferguson said the group will use its final meeting to discuss defining district boundaries, as well as how to enforce parking limits.

Residential parking districts are among options the task force is considering to reduce an ongoing problem for residents on streets near the Southeast's main campus.

Each semester, students who refuse to pay to park on school property park on residential streets near campus buildings. Residents on Alta Vista Drive and nearby streets have complained that students' cars have blocked driveways or prevented people from parking near their own homes. In 2006, police issued 804 parking tickets -- 25 percent of parking tickets issued that year -- on two blocks of Alta Vista Drive, near the school.

The parking task force was created in August after city councilman John Voss asked the city to raise parking fines from $10 to $50. Task force members are Brown, Ferguson, city attorney Eric Cunningham, Lt. Mark Majoris of the Cape Girardeau Police Department, Chris Hutson, who is co-manager of Hutson's Fine Furniture, Southeast Missouri State University student Brooke Lockhart and Jodi Stahly, who lives on a street near the school.

Early recommendations included more frequent police patrols and putting temporary "no parking" signs along the most troubled streets.

Signs didn't work

Councilwoman Debra Tracy, who lives on one of the streets near campus, said the signs didn't appear to make much difference.

Lockhart, a sophomore accounting major who works for the university's public safety department, said higher fines may make the biggest difference to students.

"They'll be like, 'Well, this isn't worth it,'" she said. Lockhart called the parking situation "a walking problem. No one wants to walk very far. They'll just park wherever, a close spot, and get the $10 ticket."

She said the task force will likely recommend increasing fines to $25. Procrastinators will pay $35 after seven days and $45 after 30 days.

Hutson said the city council could change any recommendations.

The task force meets for the final time Jan. 16.

335-6611, extension 127

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