Lookin’ for a place to park it

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 21, 2000

An additional snow emergency parking lot for downtown employees was proposed on Wednesday night, after a downtown worker brought a complaint to the Public Works Committee.

Thursday, December 21, 2000

An additional snow emergency parking lot for downtown employees was proposed on Wednesday night, after a downtown worker brought a complaint to the Public Works Committee.

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Amy Ferguson, general manager of The Brown Derby, said that she was forced to pay $88.75 in towing charges and $10 for a snow emergency violation when her car was towed before she could finish closing her bar.

"I don’t have a nice 9-to-5 job," Ferguson said and went on to explain that bar employees’ hours should be accommodated during snow emergencies. "Because we’re common people, you should take care of us," Ferguson said.

Acknowledging that the amount of snow Austin received during the past week was unusual, Director of Public Works Jon Erichson said that there is already parking available at the swimming pool for bar owners and employees to use. Ferguson said that she "won’t walk the five blocks to that lot," for a variety of reasons.

Erichson suggested a new parking site for the downtown employees – the Thirsty’s Bar lot. The lot has a capacity of approximately 20 cars. Ferguson said that she would be willing to park in that lot and would inform other bar owners of the new site.

The issue will be passed to the ordinance committee and then onto the full council. Erichson said that cars will not be towed out of the Thirsty’s lot during snow emergencies until the issue has been before the council. Erichson added that signs will be added if and when the council approves the new site.

Another issue that was brought before the committee involved a legal decision that was made in the case involving 11th Street property assessments. In this specific case, the city made major infrastructure improvements that cost were assessed to property owners. Two owners appealed the assessments.

City Attorney David Hoversten informed the committee that Judge Lawrence Agerter of the Third District handed down a decision wherein he stated that the improvements "conferred no special benefit to the property," therefore any assessment should be vacated and set aside.

In making his decision, Hoversten made it clear to the committee that the court did acknowledge that the city can assess adjacent property owners for improvements. This particular decision, however, relied on the benefit of increase or decrease in market value.

Hoversten stated that they believe that the judge erred in his decision, since the fact that improvements were made should require that the court find at least some benefit. The issue will be brought before the full council to decide the course of action to be taken. Eventually, the case will be heard before the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

Some previous challenges to rulings have resulted in reduced assessments or cities receiving their full assessments. This is the first instance where Hoversten has heard of a decision of "no benefit" to new assessments.

The committee passed a recommendation to issue the case to the full council for appeal. This issue is expected to be on the council’s Dec. 27 agenda.

In other agenda business, public works committee members discussed a letter received from the Neighborhood Watch of Second Avenue NW from Fifth to Seventh streets NW. In the letter, residents complained about the "speed and reckless driving of high school students during their lunch time and after school."

Citing concerns about children, including a day care in the area mentioned, the group asked for a four-way stop at the intersection of Seventh Street NW and Second Avenue NW and signage in the area. Additionally, they requested a street light, in the hopes that it will discourage alleged drug activity occurring in the area.

After discussing the issues involved, Erichson said that the area would merit a four-way stop if it was "totally uncontrolled," but it is not. He suggested putting radar near the intersection as an educational tool to encourage drivers to stay within the legal speed limit.

The committee approved the street light and radar recommendations.

Capital projects for 2001 were brought before the committee, but it was decided that they will be discussed further in January.

The final agenda item concerned steps from the lower to upper deck of the Pickett Place parking structure. Residents have been concerned about the number of steps and are requesting a sidewalk along the north side of the structure.

Erichson stated that the topography of the land would not be fit for a sidewalk. Erichson said that he would speak to Kermit Mahan of the Housing and Redevelopment Authority about the issue.

As an added item, committee member Mickey Jorgenson asked Erichson about the traffic patterns near Sterling Drug. Apparently, drivers are not adhering to the one way signs in the area. Erichson said that more signage will be installed, but may have to wait until the spring.