Parking struggles plague GV’s health services building

Courtesy Photo / Google Maps

Courtesy photo

Courtesy Photo / Google Maps

Austin Metz

Parking permits, parking meters, and restricted parking are all options to help local residents deal with parking problems near Grand Valley State University’s Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences.

Kristi DeKraker, executive director of the Belknap Lookout Neighborhood Association said that the parking problem has been a issue for some time now.

“It has been a reoccurring issue since 2001 with the building of the Cook-DeVos Center,” DeKraker said. “When the building was first built, it had about 185 parking spots and the students were expected to ride the shuttle.”

DeKraker said this has not happened and residents in the area have had issues finding parking spots close to home because students and employees of the hospital are filling the streets.

At a recent meeting of the Automobile Parking Commission, it was announced that a task force is being built to find what would work best to fix the issues and a resolution is due in the next 12 months.

“If neighbors leave and try to come back, it’s nearly impossible to find a parking spot,” DeKraker said. “It depends on the area but generally street parking is filled by GVSU students and hospital employees… we know development will continue on the hill and we need to protect our residents.”

The area creating the most problems is the 500 block of Fairview Avenue to North Avenue, and residents within the 600 block are also starting to be affected, DeKraker explained.
“We cannot change human nature but we can look at internal policies,” she said.

Pamela Ritsema is the city’s managing director of parking services and is in charge of finding a solution to the issue.

“There are insufficient spaces for residents to park on-street because the spaces are occupied by students or employees,” Ritsema said. “We’ve had complaints for several years. Previously we have used parking regulation enforcement i.e. ticketing for (parking) too close to a crosswalk, fire hydrant, driveway.”

Ritsema explained that city staff and neighborhood representatives are meeting to develop city ordinance language, policy and how the program would work but also said that no decisions will be made soon.

“We have a committee set up to look into our options and the parking permits are one option,” DeKraker said. “We are encouraging the use of the shuttle and mass transit and also possibly parking meters and restricted parking hours. In some areas, if we do restricted parking, with a two hour limit, we would get rid of the all-day parkers.”

Although DeKraker said that students aren’t doing anything wrong, the city and the Belknap Lookout Association feel they need to settle the situation.

“We haven’t set a goal but the sooner the better,” DeKraker said. “We expect the problem to get worse with GVSU’s plan to build another new facility.”

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