by Karen Mead-Elford, co-editor

   The city of Owosso currently has 1,731 free parking spaces in the downtown area. Over half of this total allows for up to 72-hour parking. The total of these free parking spaces allows one space for every nine individuals (any age) in Owosso at any time – given that only one person utilizes a vehicle during the parking period.

   Recently and as a result of a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a decision was made holding that the practice of chalking tires – like that used in Owosso – is unconstitutional. Owosso’s parking enforcement policy included chalking tires to determine any tire movement over an established period of time.

   The short of the court ruling involved a plaintiff from Saginaw who complained after receiving numerous parking tickets over a three-year period. Her claim was that the chalk method is a violation of the fourth amendment. The three-judge panel agreed and the ruling went through on Monday, April 22, making the chalking method unconstitutional.

   After the ruling, Owosso city staff quickly met to review the court’s decision in an effort to comply with the law. It was proposed to utilize a handheld device allowing for electronic identification of tires – requiring no contact with the vehicle. The city went ahead with the new protocol by Friday, April 26 – in compliance with the ruling, according to city attorney Scott Gould.

   Along with two-hour street parking, the city of Owosso offers five 72-hour parking locations and six four-hour parking locations. What some residents might not recognize is that Owosso is one of only a few municipalities of its size to offer free parking. Downtown data supplied through Owosso DDA shows that other municipalities of comparative size, such as Traverse City, Sault Ste Marie and Rochester, either offer completely metered or mostly metered options. The city of Owosso and Owosso DDA offer the free parking as an incentive for the downtown business sector and to accommodate residents.

   Whereas a number of individuals expressed concern via social media sources, debating whether Owosso parking is convenient or not, or expressing dissatisfaction with the two-hour parking/ticket limitation, or the chalking method – one fact remains. One parking spot within the city can generate up to $11,000 of revenue for downtown merchants (not the city) within a year. Parking has a value, both to Owosso and the residents, and does require a parking enforcement strategy to maintain. Yet, the ticket policy in place, accounting for the removal of the first two parking tickets being free after council eliminated that in 2018, will now pay the $8,059 per year salary of one city parking employee and almost nothing beyond that expenditure.

   “Our goal isn’t to make money on parking. Our goal is to support the parking enforcement policy,” shared Owosso City Manager Nathan Henne.

   One last interesting fact concerning traversing Owosso – the walk from Comstock Street to Exhange Street is 605 feet. The east to west width of the local Walmart is 593 feet and the width of Meijer (at its widest) is 509 feet.

Free Parking Continues in Downtown Owosso was last modified: May 6th, 2019 by Karen Elford