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Duluth to delay front-yard parking enforcement

After announcing plans to crack down on people who illegally park in the front yards of homes earlier this fall, Duluth city officials announced Thursday they will place those enforcement efforts on hold.

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After announcing plans to crack down on people who illegally park in the front yards of homes earlier this fall, Duluth city officials announced Thursday they will place those enforcement efforts on hold.

Keith Hamre, Duluth's director of planning and construction services, told city councilors that after talking to concerned landlords and tenants city administration has decided to stand down until June.

Many of the most greatly affected properties house students attending college in Duluth, and Hamre said: "I think it's safe to say that students were not necessarily well informed of where their parking was located or how many legal parking spaces they had. And I think landlords were probably not terribly up to date with what they needed to do with some of those issues. They wanted to spend some time educating themselves on what the front-yard parking requirements are and also to work with their tenants to identify what their customer needs are, because they are operating businesses in our community."

The city had issued a warning that it would begin to issue parking tickets to vehicles improperly parked in front yards. It also advised landlords that they would likewise be subject to fines for repeated violations on their properties.

But Hamre advocated a slower approach Thursday, saying that waiting until June 1 would allow the city "to spend more time with students and more time with landlords, talking about how to be compliant with this, starting June 1 of next year."

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That timeline makes sense, in part, because most leases for student housing run for a year and expire in May. David Montgomery, Duluth's chief administrative officer, said this would allow for parking expectations to then be detailed in leases for the next academic year.

The delayed enforcement met with praise from 2nd District City Councilor Joel Sipress, who said it was the right move to make "out of fairness, especially to tenants who signed leases without any prior knowledge of what access they had to legal off-street parking."

But Sipress said: "I agree that this time delay is only warranted if we use the time to come up with a way to make sure that beginning next year, when new leases are signed, that everyone is fully aware of what the rules are and that we can then, as necessary, stringently enforce the front-yard parking rules."

Hamre said both drivers and landlords need to be held to account.

"What we wanted to do is impress upon the landlords that they're responsible for the operation of a business. They're responsible to meet their customers' needs. So that's where we stepped up this year and said: This isn't just tenants and this isn't just homeowners, because we also issued warning tickets to homeowners who were parking in their front yards too, which is against the city code," he said.

"We want to enforce it stringently, but we also want to make sure we do it with both tools that we have, which is to ticket the vehicle that's in the wrong position and also to let the property owner know that you have a violation, and here's the administrative citation that goes along with that," Hamre said.

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Peter Passi covers city government for the Duluth News Tribune. He joined the paper in April 2000, initially as a business reporter but has worked a number of beats through the years.
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