Residents renew attempt at parking permits near SEMO campus

Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Southeast Missouri State University students Casey Bollinger, left, Tara Gorman, center, and Ethan Miller board the shuttle Tuesday in Cape Girardeau. "The shuttles are pretty much my only means of transportation at this point," Miller said. (Laura Simon)

A group of residents who live near Southeast Missouri State University is lobbying Cape Girardeau officials for special parking permits that would only be available to those who own their own homes, a notion that has left some city leaders leery.

Some residents who live in the Boulevard Historic District, which is adjacent to the campus, asked the Cape Girardeau City Council on Monday night to consider implementing a parking sticker system for certain side streets, such as portions of Park Avenue, West End Boulevard, Highland Drive and Normal Avenue.

The homeowners proposed issuing 250 stickers -- a maximum of two per household -- that would make them exempt from restrictions that were put in place by the council in August. The council prohibited weekday parking from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on both sides of West End Boulevard and the other nearby streets from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. That was done to keep students from clogging up parking spaces and blocking driveways.

Now, a segment of the group is back and pushing again for special tickets, which they propose be administered by city planner Ryan Shrimplin, since he is the liaison for the city's Historic Preservation Commission.

"The parking is perfect for some residents and it's a hardship for others," said Cindy Mayer, a member of the district and a proponent of permits. "We contacted a majority of the residents in the district, and over 90 percent are in favor of some sort of parking plan."

The residents want to be allowed to park in front of their own houses during those hours.

Mayer stressed that the plan will be optional. For those who are happy with the current parking arrangement, she said, nothing would change. The group proposes making the stickers cost a one-time charge of $5 apiece, which would be good forever. If 250 stickers are printed, it would cost $265, which would be covered by the $5 charge.

The district is in Ward 3 and is represented by new Councilman Trent Summers. Summers said that he found the plan sound, though he acknowledged it's just a first draft.

"I think it's definitely going to take some work to move the ball and convince some of the council members there is a need and it's warranted," Summers said.

Others on the council weren't so ready to jump on board, saying they were uncomfortable with approving a system that required someone to provide proof of homeownership and left renters out.

Councilman Mark Lanzotti asked whether the council had the authority to restrict the use of public resources, such as parking, based solely on property ownership, adding that "philosophically, I have a problem with this."

Lanzotti added: "You're giving additional rights to a public resource based on homeownership."

Lanzotti said before he could support such a system, city attorney Eric Cunningham needed to provide a legal opinion, which Cunningham is working on. He also suggested the program should be annual and that the stickers should cost more. He worried about creating additional burdens on city staff, taking up their time for what could grow if other neighborhoods asked for similar programs. Both Lanzotti and Councilman John Voss spoke as if they would be more comfortable if the program were open to residents, not just homeowners.

"Basically, we'd be allowing people to say 'Get off my public street, I own it,'" Lanzotti said. "It's a slippery slope."

The council is waiting for word from Cunningham before it takes further action.

Dennis Holt, dean of students, attended the meeting and said Southeast isn't taking a position either way. But he noted that ridership on the university's shuttle system has risen significantly in recent years.

smoyers@semissourian.com

388-3642

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