ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Business owners and residents along St. Paul’s popular Grand Avenue say they want city leaders to leave the area alone.

Several weeks ago, Mayor Chris Coleman proposed a plan within his budget that would install parking meters along the busy shopping strip.

The city says it would help solve the parking problem in the area, but people rallying in the neighborhood on Sunday say the city is just trying to make money at the expense of the community. People living and working along Grand Avenue say the city should have told them about plans for parking meters along a one-mile stretch from Dale Street to Ayd Mill Road.

Kay Norbury has owned a UPS store along the strip for the last five years.

“It will be a detriment to businesses here,” Norbury said.

Norbury said she printed 500 pretend parking tickets for people to sign and send to Mayor Coleman.

“My biggest fear is that I have mailbox customers and they’re not going to want to run in and get their mail everyday if they have to pay one dollar to do that,” Norbury said.

Grand Avenue resident Laura Fervoy calls the city’s plan a “money grab.”

Fervoy and several residents at the rally say city officials are facing a possible budget deficit and hastily put together the parking meter plan to make an extra $800,000 per year.

“They’re trying to impose this parking meter structure on an area they really don’t understand the area,” Fervoy said.

Fervoy says under the current proposal, she would have to pay to park right in front of her home.

Deputy Mayor Kristin Beckmann attended the rally in a local business parking lot and apologized to the unhappy crowd.

Beckmann encouraged the crowd to give city officials their feedback over the next couple of weeks to make the proposal more feasible.

“I will admit this was clumsy, the way we rolled it out,” Beckmann said. “We could have done better.”

However, Beckmann says the parking problem along Grand Avenue is very real and has been a topic of conversation amongst city leaders for years.

“There have been eight studies over the years about parking on Grand Ave. about fact that there aren’t enough surface lots, we don’t have ramps, we don’t have enough spaces,” Beckmann said.

Beckmann says parking meters will help, not hurt, because they are the only way to move cars along.

“Meters will help make sure people who park in short term spots are short term parkers,” Beckmann said. “It’s an entire ecosystem that will run more smoothly with parking meters.”

The St. Paul City Council is holding a public hearing on Oct. 21. Members of the community are encouraged to attend. There could be a vote on the parking meter plan that same night.

If approved, the meters would be installed in May.

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