Grand Forks committee favors city downtown parking proposal
A Grand Forks City Council committee on Tuesday favored a city staff proposal for Central High School parking downtown--but concerns remain about whether this step will help resolve a year-long discussion between the city and school district.
A Grand Forks City Council committee on Tuesday favored a city staff proposal for Central High School parking downtown-but concerns remain about whether this step will help resolve a year-long discussion between the city and school district.
Though the plan differs from a school district proposal, Grand Forks Public School Board member Bill Palmiscno, the only board member at Tuesday's meeting, agreed with the committee's decision, adding he expects other School Board members will also support it.
Still, City Council members voiced concerns about whether the full School Board, which had a scheduled meeting on Tuesday, will approve.
The city proposal opposes an April 13 School Board decision to terminate its lease for 97 parking spots in a city-owned ramp and to seek city approval for a temporary gravel parking lot at school district-owned land at North Fifth Street and University Avenue, called Executive Corners.
The full City Council may not support the city staff proposal either, as Council President Dana Sande said Tuesday he will not support the proposal moving forward because it states Executive Corners should be rezoned from residential to business.
"We don't know what it's going to be, so why are we rushing to rezone it?" Sande asked. "There is no benefit from rezoning it today."
The school district had previously submitted that rezoning request with plans for a paved parking lot, but the request was tabled numerous times by the City Council due to concerns about building a new Central High School parking lot downtown when the city parking ramp is underutilized.
The city staff proposal favored by the council's Service/Safety Committee Tuesday states:
• The city will proceed with the school district's request of rezoning Executive Corners from residential to business, because zoning that area as business "is appropriate and advantageous" for future downtown development. If the site is redeveloped as a surface parking lot, the city will ask that public art be featured at a prominent corner.
• The school district will take no further action to demolish the buildings at Executive Corners.
• The city will amend its lease with the school district to provide 50 parking spots on the ground level of the parking ramp and 47 spots on the top floor, rather than having all 97 spots on the top floor.
• The city-owned parking lot in the 300 block of North Fourth Street will operate as is, rather than be shared by the school district and city, as was suggested in a school district proposal.
• City and school district staff will complete a report on parking by March 1, 2016, as was suggested by the school district. The report would include possible development options for Executive Corners, as well as parking solutions for Central High School.
• The city will continue monitoring safety of the parking ramp, as safety of students parking in the ramp has been an ongoing concern for school officials.
Palmiscno said he expects the School Board to support that proposal largely because of the city's offer to provide 50 ground-level parking spots in the ramp. He called the move "an olive branch" or a peace offering.
City Administrator Todd Feland said the goal of the proposal is to not only compromise with the school district, but it's also to best prepare for further downtown development.
Council member Crystal Schneider said she is in favor of compromising with the school district, but "It sort of sounds like (the city is) doing all the giving at this point."
Palmiscno responded, saying the school district has held off for months on its desired Executive Corners parking lot, waiting for the city to make decisions on the project.
"We've given a lot by waiting," he said.
Despite Palmiscno's support of the city committee's recommendation Tuesday, Sande said he does not believe the full School Board will accept the proposal, based on previous comments by school officials.
"I'm concerned this will go back to the School Board and they won't be OK with it," Sande said. "I don't know what the answer is."
The proposal will be sent to the full City Council for approval next week, and the School Board will review it at its meeting later next month.
If City Council approves the plan next week, rezoning plans will be sent to the city Planning and Zoning Commission.