By Shereen Siewert
Overnight parking on all Wausau streets between 2:30 a.m. and 6 a.m. from December through February will be prohibited entirely if a new proposed ordinance is approved Tuesday by the city council.
Currently, the city employs an “odd/even” strategy, allowing street parking on alternating sides of the street year round. The new rules would prevent the need for calling a snow emergency to allow plow drivers to effectively clear streets following significant snowfall events.
The city’s capital improvements and street maintenance committee first discussed the proposal Nov. 14 and approved the measure by a 3-2 vote. Lisa Rasmussen, Linda Lawrence and Gary Gisselman voted in favor, while Mary Thao and Becky McElhaney were opposed.
Critics, including some local tavern owners, say the new rules will penalize drivers who choose to take a safe ride home after drinking. In addition, several council members including Thao and McElhaney said an overnight parking ban will be particularly difficult for renters, especially in districts close to downtown with dense housing and a high number of rental properties.
Many homes in those areas lack garages or long driveways, Thao said, also expressing concern that the proposal is being floated with the winter snow season already underway.
McElhaney said renters are not going to comply because they can’t.
“Behavior is not going to change because they have no place to go,” McElhaney said. “Renters probably assume when they rent that parking is available even if it isn’t.”
Rasmussen said the current rules make it difficult for snow removal crews to do their jobs and clear streets appropriately. Currently, city officials declare about two to three snow emergencies per year, the only time street parking is completely prohibited.
The full council is expected to make a decision during their 6:30 p.m. meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 10 at City Hall, 407 Grant St., Wausau.