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  • Kevin Elliott

Parking policy returns to Rochester City Council

A recommendation by the Rochester Parking Advisory Committee to create a special assessment for parking spaces was narrowly approved on Monday, September 24, by the Rochester City Council.

The special assessment, referred to as a payment in lieu of providing off-street parking policy, allows businesses in the downtown area to meet parking requirements prescribed in the city's zoning ordinance by paying into the city's parking fund through a special assessment. The assessment would relieve the business owners from providing additional on-site parking, instead allowing for customer parking in the city's parking deck.

The committee recommended setting the assessment at a total of $7,500 per parking space, which would be payable over the length of the tenant's lease, or a maximum of 10 years, whichever is less. Under the recommendation, the committee would review the assessment amount every three years.

Deputy City Manager Nik Banda said the assessment amount came from an estimate of the cost of providing a new surface parking space. He said once the full amount for the space is paid, that space would be tied to the property, with additional payments not required, regardless of whether the tenant changes.

The recommendation directs the committee to move forward with the assessment and rate, which will come back to city council for final approval. The recommendation was approved by a vote of 4-3, with council members Kim Russell, Ann Peterson and Nancy Salvia voting against it.

Peterson said the assessments would essentially penalize new restaurants and alcohol-serving establishments, which are required by ordinance to have additional parking, while retail businesses wouldn't be under the same pressure.

Russell said she felt it wasn't fair to require tenants to pay an assessment that would benefit property owners in the long run.

Rochester Mayor Rob Ray said the policy has the advantage of allowing spaces to be financed over a decade or until the tenants aren't located at the property. The assessment, he said, may also give tenants some leverage with property owners when negotiating leases.

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