Met Council, Apple Valley disagree on parking permits
The question of where Farmington residents will be allowed to park when they take the bus to work could hinge on a ruling on exactly who controls what happens with a parking lot at a Metropolitan Valley Transit Authority facility in Apple Valley.
Last week the Apple Valley City Council voted unanimously to proceed with a plan to require permits for a parking lot at a transit facility in city -- essentially pushing Farmington and Lakeville residents out of the lot closest to the facility and either onto the street or into an auxiliary lot. But July 6 letter from Metropolitan Council chair Peter Bell argues the council does not have the right to restrict access to the lot.
Bell's letter cites the agreement signed when the Met Council provided a $920,000 grant for construction of the transit facility. That agreement includes language that prohibits changes that would restrict regional use of the facility.
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Apple Valley city council member Tom Goodwin, who described last week's council vote as "enthusiastic," said the city's attorneys assured council members they had the right to proceed.
"Now we have our very good lawyers arguing with the Met Council's very good lawyers as to what (regional) means," Goodwin said. "Our city attorney advised us we could go ahead with this."
The policy still must be approved by the city's economic development authority, which owns the lot. If approved it would likely not take effect until at least fall.
But that assumes the Met Council allows the move at all. Rep. Pat Garofalo, who has been vocal in his opposition to the permit plan, said the language in the Met Council agreement makes it clear the city cannot do anything to restrict parking it its lot. He called the permit plan a bad idea.
"It builds fences around public facilities," Garofalo said. "Farmington paid just as much for that as people from Apple Valley do.
"The operating service is paid by the entire state of Minnesota. The motor vehicle sales tax," he said. "They pay the same at the fare box. The construction of the facility was federal funds and Met Council dollars."
For Goodwin, the permit plan is a way to solve a problem Apple Valley council members believed was being taken care of two years ago, when the idea of requiring permits to park in the transit station lot first came up. At that time there was talk about adding a transit station on Pilot Knob Road to ease some of the burden at the Cedar Avenue station. Earlier this year there was an effort to bring Farmington and Lakeville in to the metropolitan area transit taxing district.
But the Pilot Knob station still has not drawn much traffic -- largely, Garofalo said, because it does not offer express service to Minneapolis and St. Paul -- and the taxing district legislation did not go anywhere in this year's Legislative session.
Goodwin said council members decided they had to do something.
"We have e-mails from our own residents who say ... 'I used to use transit. I don't use it anymore because I don't have a place to park,'" Goodwin said.
Garofalo, though, believes Apple Valley's plan is little more than an attempt to drag Farmington and Lakeville into the transit taxing district. Both cities have rejected that idea. Farmington city administrator Peter Herlofsky said last month the city does not believe it would get enough benefit from joining the district to justify the additional taxes Farmington residents would pay.
Garofalo said there are better solutions than the one Apple Valley is pursuing. He suggested the state could use some of its budget surplus to increase service at the Pilot Knob station.
"In one respect it's a great problem to have because so many people want to ride the bus our lots are jammed full," Garofalo said. "That's what people are telling us right now. They want additional service."