Ashford University neighbors turned up at the Tuesday meeting of the Rules and Regulations Committee at City Hall, to speak out against the student vehicles they say crowd the residential streets. A proposed move to restricted residential parking may help resolve the situation.
Committee members listened to several complaints from the gathered community members. The residential streets from Third Avenue North to Sixth Avenue North are frequently filled with Ashford students who block alleys, park too close to stop signs, and leave vehicles on the street for days at a time, according to the residents at the meeting.
The issue was nothing new to City Administrator Jeffrey Horne, who said he was made aware of the issue, but told those present that the city has limited options on restricting parking on city streets.
“It’s a city, public street,” Horne said. “We can’t control who parks there.”
However, City Attorney Jeff Farwell said some steps could be taken.
Farwell proposed restricting parking on the streets to area residents, through the use of parking passes. He said the city could issue stickers or temporary passes to be placed in vehicles, making it clear to law enforcement officials which vehicles are allowed to be on the streets.
Horne agreed that the move was practical. He said that though he had prior knowledge of the parking issue, he was unaware of the littering that occurred as a result. That, Horne said, is a serious issue that warrants attention.
He also encouraged the committee members to not include a fee as part of the proposal.
“It’s not that great of a cost to eat,” Horne said, adding that the benefit of the proposal would outweigh the meager cost. “It’s as good of a solution as I think we’ve heard.”
Farwell said he had spoken with Ashford officials previously about the issue and had even recommended that a rule be written into the student handbook prohibiting parking on the residential streets.
“I floated that idea to them months ago,” Farwell said. “They haven’t acted on it.”
Farwell also explained that the city has very little control over what the university does.
John Ballheim, Vice President and Campus Director for Ashford, said students are encouraged to use the parking spaces provided by the university, but that many prefer the on street parking as it is closer to classrooms. Instructions on parking, including how to take advantage of the city buses that shuttle students from parking areas, are offered at student orientation, according to Ballheim.
“We want to be good neighbors, and understand why some of our neighbors are upset that students park on streets in front of their homes,” Ballheim said in an email to the Herald. “Currently, it is our understanding that it is perfectly legal for students – or anyone else – to park there.”
On Tuesday, a proposal to adopt the residential parking program in the affected neighborhoods, without cost to area residents, was forwarded to the Committee of the Whole. Committee Member Mark Vulich expressed a desire to speed up the process of adopting the ordinance, to have it in effect close to the beginning of the fall semester.
In other action, the committee:
• Listened to a study on speed limits downtown by City Engineer Jason Craft.
Craft said 98 percent of motorists driving on South Fourth Street were exceeding the speed limit, with an estimated 85 percent of them exceeding the speed limit by almost 10 miles per hour.
The committee rejected Craft’s proposal to extend the 30 mile per hour speed limit for a few blocks, before lowering it to 20 miles per hour near Prince of Peace Catholic School. Committee members instead preferred to adopt a uniform 25 mile per hour speed limit for the area, to keep it consistent, while meeting Iowa regulations.
Craft said that the committee’s proposal would actually raise the speed limit in front of Prince of Peace, something he fears could concern school officials.
Regardless, the committee forwarded its proposal to the Committee of the Whole.
The downtown area of South Fourth Street would be affected.