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ND House votes to keep parking meter ban

A parking meter (file photo)

BISMARCK — North Dakota House lawmakers rejected a bill Wednesday, April 12, to lift the state’s ban on parking meters, but the issue will still be debated in a separate bill.

The House had previously approved a version of Senate Bill 2247 that opened the door for parking meters but required cities to put the issue to a vote of the people before installing meters.

Amendments to the bill adopted by the Senate removed the requirement for voter approval. Instead, the amended bill said city leaders “may” put the issue on the ballot.

“If a city proposes to install parking meters and there’s not a pushback from the people, there really is no need to go through the time or expense of putting on a ballot,” said Rep. Jim Grueneich, R-Jamestown. “If there is pushback, then ultimately it would go on a ballot.”

The ban on parking meters was originally put in place with an initiated measure in 1949, but the Legislature repealed it two years later. North Dakota voters rejected that action in 1952, according to a legislative memo.

Several House members voiced concern about removing the requirement for local voter approval.

“The people of North Dakota put this statute in place,” said Rep. Kim Koppelman, R-West Fargo.

Rep. Jim Kasper, R-Fargo, called parking meters an “indirect tax” and said he hasn’t heard any support for metered parking other than from city officials who want to collect more money.

“People of our city don’t want parking meters, the taxpayers don’t want parking meters, but five city commissioners want parking meters,” Kasper said.

Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney supported removing the state’s ban on parking meters and letting the City Commission make the decision.

Rep. Thomas Beadle, R-Fargo, said he didn’t initially like the idea of parking meters, but after researching the issue he found metered parking can provide some benefits, including an increase in customer turnover.

“This is actually an issue that can help drive commerce to our downtown areas,” said Beadle, adding that it would likely only apply to six blocks in downtown Fargo.

Rep. Dan Ruby, R-Minot, said some cities would like the option of parking meters for certain high-demand areas to allow spots to open up more often. He urged legislators to give local communities the option.

“My guess is you’re never going to see them in your community or the majority of communities you go into,” Ruby said.

The bill failed with a 29-59 vote.

However, the parking meter issue is still alive in an amendment to the Department of Transportation budget. Section 11 of Senate Bill 2012 would allow cities to have metered parking if voters approve. The amendment also requires 20 percent of parking meter revenue to go into the state public transportation fund, excluding parking meters on college campuses.

That bill is being considered by a conference committee.

Amy Dalrymple

Amy Dalrymple is a Forum News Service reporter stationed in the Oil Patch. She can be reached at adalrymple@forumcomm.com or (701) 580-6890.

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