Ahead of State Fair, Roseville looks for solutions to parking pinch


The Great Minnesota Get-Together has been breaking attendance records in recent years and causing parking headaches for residents in nearby Roseville. (file photo)

Roseville’s 14 Minnesota State Fair park and rides are clustered near the city’s border with Falcon Heights, where the fair is held, and in its commercial hub near Rosedale Center. (courtesy of City of Roseville)

With 100 days to go before the start of the 2019 Minnesota State Fair, the Roseville City Council on May 13 discussed how to best deal with mounting fair-related parking woes.

For now, based on resident complaints over clogged streets and safety concerns, the council is leaning toward expanded temporary parking bans around some park and ride locations, and will nail down final plans for the 2019 fair next month.

The Great Minnesota Get-Together in recent years has been consistently breaking attendance records — some 2 million attended the 12-day event last year, more than ever — while at the same time developing at-fair parking into new attractions, reducing the availability of on-site spots.

For instance, the fair announced this winter it was building a $16 million new exhibit complex on its north end on a previously undeveloped site.

The parking pinch has been felt in Roseville, which is home to 14 park and ride locations at which fair-goers can leave their cars and take a bus to the fair — more than ever, the lots are filling up and cars are spilling out onto the surrounding streets.

The locations are clustered around Roseville’s border with Falcon Heights, which is home to the fairgrounds, and spread up through its commercial corridor in the area of Rosedale Center.

 

Feedback and enforcement

Mayor Dan Roe said the city heard from residents about the park and rides in a big way during and after the 2018 fair, and in response, the city sent out 5,000 mailers seeking comments about the park and rides from folks who live nearby them.

The city received 53 responses, with more than half saying something along the lines of “we enjoy having the park and rides in town,” but adding that increased parking restrictions, perhaps on one side of the street, would help strike a balance. Only two respondents said they were opposed to the locations.

The city has hosted fair park and rides for some time, well before 2001 when it stepped in and began issuing interim use permits to churches and elsewhere that required the zoning exception to continue to offer the park and ride service. The permit process also means the city can put conditions on the use, a helpful means of dealing with some complaints.

In recent years, according to residents and city officials, the lots are filling faster than ever, leading to folks parking on side streets; in some instances, fair-goers are foregoing the lots and choosing the streets even if there are still open, sanctioned in-lot spots.

“Particularly, if it’s a nice first day of the fair, those lots are full by 9 a.m.,” said Public Works Director Marc Culver during the meeting. “And then the people start going out into the streets.”

During the last round of permitting for nine lots (the remaining five of the city’s 14 park and ride lots are on commercial properties and don’t need permits), Roseville required the Minnesota State Fair to pay for the posting of off-duty police officers to help guide traffic and enforce parking regulations nearby.

Culver outlined the past two years of policing. For 2017, the city or police department received 22 parking complaints, which resulted in 17 parking citations and 89 written warnings. For last year’s fair, eight complaints came in, resulting in 32 citations and 27 warnings.

 

No compensation, 

only aggravation

Comments from the public during the meeting largely mirrored the mailers’ responses, with support for the park and rides tempered by complaints about missed mail delivery and garbage collection, choked streets and worries about the ability of emergency vehicles to pass through narrow, parked-out roads.

Those speaking at the meeting were most concerned with overflow parking related to park and ride locations at Saint Rose of Lima Catholic Church on Hamline Avenue and Calvary Baptist Church on Lexington Avenue.

One woman who lives behind Lexington Park, across the street from Calvary Baptist, took a hard line against the park and rides, saying she was fed up with the headache of impassable streets and the dangers presented by the annual influx of cars and outsiders into her neighborhood.

“We receive no compensation for this, no one asked us if we wanted to live in the middle of a parking lot,” she said. “All we get is the aggravation part of it. I don’t understand the community part of it.”

Council members were sympathetic to the issues raised, though not in total agreement of how to handle them. 

One thing they said that had been working for irked residents was posting their owns signs, asking for no parking in front of mailboxes or in front of trash cans. Culver pointed out there’s no enforcement againt those who ignore the courtesy signs, but they’d reportedly been effective nonetheless.

Ruling out a total fair-time on-street parking ban, which Falcon Heights enforces, or street-by-street parking regiments chosen by folks who live on them, council members decided to look into putting in place single-side parking bans within a quarter-mile radius of all park and ride locations.

Culver was clear he wasn’t sure how far folks were parking from the park and ride locations, and the council will make further plans to deal with Minnesota State Fair parking during its June 17 meeting.

 

–Mike Munzenrider can be reached at mmunzenrider@lillienews.com or 651-748-7813. 

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