Hahn Asks Borough Council to Consider Changes to Overnight Parking Permit Pilot Project
State College Mayor Don Hahn is asking borough council to consider several revisions to the pilot program approved in April to create a permit system for overnight parking in the Highlands neighborhood.
In a letter to council, published Sunday on Hahn's blog, he asks council and transportation commission to consider revisions to overnight non-event regulations and to create an overnight event parking area, and for council to consider expanding the overnight event parking system to other neighborhoods.
For years, State College has waived enforcement of an overnight parking restriction on borough streets during Penn State home football weekends and other special events that bring an influx of visitors and vehicles to the area. In 2017, Highlands Civic Association made a request for the borough to enforce the restriction during football weekends, citing impacts on safety and quality of life as reasons.
After the borough studied parking on streets with 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. restrictions, council considered several options, including borough-wide enforcement at all times as well as continuing with the practice of not enforcing during football and special event weekends. The borough's study in the fall of 2017 found more than half of the vehicles parked on those roads with restrictions did so only during times when parking was otherwise permitted.
During the review, staff found nothing in borough ordinances as written gave the authority to waive the parking restriction. The proposal, which still requires approval of an ordinance, would continue non-enforcement in other neighborhoods.
Council ultimately agreed to a pilot project only for the Highlands neighborhood, creating a system that will require residents to get a temporary permit for their guests to park on streets that otherwise restrict parking between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. Each residence will be allotted 24 non-event overnight parking passes for a $24 fee, and 36 more at a cost of $5 each. On home football weekends and during Arts Festival, however, they will be required to pay $10 for an overnight permit.
The pilot is expected to go into effect on Oct. 1, but council has not yet voted on a formal ordinance.
In his letter, Hahn asked that council and transportation commission consider creating an overnight event parking area, akin to the existing commuter parking areas.
"Similar to the commuter parking area, it should be located close to the downtown and in areas where the residents do not object to overnight event parking," Hahn wrote. "Like the commuter parking permits, it would not be tied to residency requirements and would be limited to the number of available spaces."
Hahn also asked council to consider expanding the overnight event parking system to other neighborhoods, which could see increased street parking with the implementation of the project in the Highlands.
"I suspect that overnight event parking will become Holmes-Foster's and College Heights' problem in the near future, under the current proposal," Hahn wrote.
The initial proposal from Highlands residents was brought to the Coalition of Neighborhood Associations but no others advocated for it. Still, at the April meeting approving the pilot, several council members noted that areas such as Holmes-Foster already experience heavier visitor parking during event weekends and that could increase if fewer vehicles could park in the Highlands during those times.
Hahn also wrote that he would support, for non-event overnight parking, "imposing a small, administrative fee upon those whose request for special exceptions to enforcement are made during the evenings or weekends" and "liberalizing the number and circumstances in which timely special exceptions to enforcement are granted."
"I am in agreement that overnight parking prohibitions are appropriate for streets where their residents object to having them used for long-term car storage," Hahn wrote. "In addition, the permitting system would facilitate the payment of fees for those whose request for special exceptions to enforcement are made during the evenings or weekends."
Hahn said he would respect council's decision if it disagreed with any or all of his proposals.
He added that he had procedural concerns related to the level of citizen input for an ordinance on the parking changes.
Transportation commission has not had adequate opportunity to review and comment on the proposal approved by council in April, according to Hahn.
"While Council has the discretion to disregard the Transportation Commission's comments and recommendations, I believe that Council needs to consider such comments and recommendations before voting on an ordinance," Hahn wrote.
He also said that the public should have an opportunity to comment on the proposal before an ordinance is voted on.
"I believe that the public should have an opportunity to be heard on the proposed revisions to the overnight event parking system," he wrote. "... I believe that a public hearing should be scheduled on the specific proposal prior to a vote on the ordinance."
A date for the vote on an ordinance has not yet been publicly scheduled.