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Downtown employee parking a perennial concern

30 minute parking signs were requested outside a downtown business. The Park Rapids City Council denied the request. (Anna Erickson / Enterprise)

Park Rapids City Council members voted down a request for 30 minute parking signs in downtown to stay away from precedence.

Dave Konshok Sr. requested four 30 minute parking signs on the south side of the Whistlestop Parcel Center and Four Seas restaurant along 4th Street west.

"They're requesting the signs to allow sufficient parking for their customers during their busiest hours," said city planner Dan Walker at Tuesday's council meeting.

The business owners would pay for the signs and install them on the south side of the building.

Walker noted that allowing individual businesses to post this type of signage would create precedent for us to entertain similar requests.

There are no other signs of this type in downtown, Walker said.

"To have a few (signs) is fair," he said. "It makes sense, it's a business, a lunch business. You want your customers to come and go."

Police chief Terry Eilers said that his officers could enforce the parking rules if it they were approved by the council.

"Isn't enforcement the main issue with any type of sign like that?" asked council member Sue Tomte. "Nobody pays attention to it unless it's enforced."

Citizen Dick Rutherford attended the meeting and asked what would happen if another business wanted to make a similar request.

"What's to stop the Schwarzwald or the Royal from asking for the same thing?" he asked. "You can't deny them once you start it. I don't think 30 minute parking for one person and not somebody else is right."

Council member Paul Utke said he would abstain from voting on the request because he owns the building. However, he said the request seemed to come from the fact that employees are parking in the spaces all day long.

"It wasn't to sting anyone with a fine but to keep away from the day-long parking, to keep them as customer spaces," Utke said. "There's times those cars show up at 8 o'clock in the morning and don't leave until 5 o'clock at night. They're trying to get away from that."

Mayor Nancy Carroll said employees parking in "customer" spaces seems to be an ongoing problem in downtown.

"Where do employees park?" Carroll asked. "If someone parks down the street, they're parking in front of someone else's business. We'd like customer parking all up and down Main."

Cynthia Jones, downtown business owner and member of the Downtown Business Association, said the other issue is that tenants who live in the upstairs of some of the buildings also park in front in those spaces.

"It's those business owners that need to keep after their tenants as well as their employees," she said.

Tomte said that in Bemidji there is a 2 hour parking limit in all of downtown Bemidji and it is enforced. That way, everyone needs to move their vehicles every two hours, she said.

Jones wasn't in favor of that idea because summer guests often spend three or four hours downtown, shopping and eating.

"There's a down side to that as well," she said.

Council member Pat Mikesh said he thought that if the council approved the request there would be no going back.

"I think business owners just need to talk to their employees," he said.

The council voted to deny the request with Utke abstaining.