Rochester mayor vetoes request related to city's winter parking requirements

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May 16—ROCHESTER — Mayor Kim Norton has vetoed a motion passed by the City Council earlier this month related to Rochester's winter residential street parking requirements on "technical and procedural grounds."

"I'm sure this may seem picky to some of you, but I think we need to be specific about our processes, so they are not abused or manipulated," she wrote in a memo to the Rochester City Council . "I am not suggesting that was the case here, but it could be at some point in the future."

The Rochester City Council voted 4-2 on May 6 to support a request by council members Shaun Palmer and Mark Bransford , which called for city staff to provide data regarding the city's required alternate-side street parking from Nov. 1 to April 1.

"Personally, I don't have a problem with this way of doing things, but I would like to see some metrics," Bransford said in introducing the request asking city staff to provide data gathered since the parking policy was implemented in 2019.

He said added data will help council members address residents' questions about the policy, which requires residents to leave one side of the street clear of vehicles each night during the fall and winter to allow for street sweeping to clear leaves and snow plowing.

Since the policy was adopted, many residents have voiced opposition to the policy, often questioning why it is in place on days when streets are clear and snow is not in the forecast.

The request submitted by Palmer and Bransford also included a call for staff to provide options to improve the seasonal parking requirements, but Bransford said gathering information related to the cost and effectiveness of the parking requirement was his primary goal.

"It is really more an intent of getting the data, benchmarking," the Ward 2 council member said.

Palmer, who was leading the meeting as acting council president in Brooke Carlson's absence, didn't provide specific comments related to the intent of the request he initiated.

Norton said the call for devoting staff time to develop options to the current policy went a step too far.

"This starts as a request for metrics (information), and then the language makes an assumption about the need for improvements without seeing the metrics or hearing about the efficacy of our current program," she wrote, adding she believes the council needs more information before determining a change is needed.

It's a concern council member Patrick Keane voiced on May 6 in his opposition to the request.

"We're not really looking at this as a policy," he said of the call to propose changes. "We're just saying 'people don't like this,' and then setting policy based on that. I think that's weak."

The council will review the issue during its May 20 meeting to determine whether it wants to override the mayor's veto, which requires support of at least five council members.

Norton said her veto doesn't mean the requested information won't be available.

"I have spoken to (City) Administrator (Alison) Zelms who says that information on the winter parking requirements will be forthcoming to the City Council and mayor, despite the veto," she wrote.

She said the more appropriate course would have been to ask staff to put the issue on an agenda for a future study session, which would allow for review of existing data and discussion of whether policy changes are needed before committing staff time to develop options.

During the May 6 discussion, Tyler Niemeyer, the city's next Public Works director, said the alternate-side parking requirement has saved city resources related to plowing streets and cleaning up fallen leaves in the fall. Additionally, he said it has made sure narrow streets can be accessed by larger vehicles, including garbage trucks and fire trucks.

"A big part of this is a public safety component," he said.

Norton cited interest in seeing further discussion take place, with a potential look at the costs and savings related to the parking policy, as well as how the current requirements compare to what's done in other cities.

"If action by the City Council is desired at some future point, there are ways to make that happen, as we've done it before on this very topic," she wrote to the council.

The council will address the veto during its meeting at 6 p.m. May 20 in council chambers of the city-county Government Center.

Norton has issued seven vetoes since taking office in 2019.

So far, the council has overturned three of the vetoes, which required the support of at least five council members.

* May 6, 2024 — A call for a review of winter residential street parking requirements. The Rochester City Council will decide whether to overturn the veto during its May 20 meeting.

* July 27, 2023 — A decision to allow a new billboard near a church along U.S. Highway 52 . The council failed to override the veto.

* July 11, 2023 — A planned special election to seek a sales tax extension with a single vote is vetoed. The council overturned the veto

* May 18, 2023 — A proposed open-gym pilot project is vetoed. The council overturned the veto.

* Oct. 26, 2021 — A plan to retain the former Legends building as part of a small-area plan is vetoed. The council overturned the veto.

* May 19, 2021 — A revised pilot program creating a certificate of appropriateness related to renovations of potentially historic buildings is vetoed. The council didn't challenge the veto and reverted to adopting an earlier pilot program.

* May 20, 2019 — A Wood Lake Park sidewalk plan is vetoed. The council did not overturn the veto.