Dickinson State University can start making plans to place students in the Blue Hawk Square off-campus housing complex after the city’s Board of Adjustment approved an off-site parking variance for it Monday morning.
The board granted the variance request made by Dacotah Bank, which took ownership of the building in June by claiming the deed from the DSU Foundation in lieu of foreclosure.
The variance will allow residents of the four-story, 108-occupant apartment complex on the corner of West Villard Street and 10th Avenue West to park their vehicles on DSU’s campus instead of in a parking lot across Villard that had been leased by the foundation since it opened. Obtaining the parking variance was a crucial step in Dacotah Bank obtaining a certificate of occupancy for Blue Hawk Square.
Board member Trevor Ernst requested the variance be granted for two years on a temporary basis after an hour of debate and comments from concerned neighborhood residents and property owners. The motion passed 3-2.
“If we allow them to use the DSU parking for a certain amount of time and they don’t follow through with it, they have to come back,” Ernst said.
Neighborhood property owners and residents, opponents of the plan, said after the meeting they’ll likely appeal the board’s decision to the city commission. They believe that students who live in Blue Hawk Square won’t abide by the rules and will continue parking on nearby streets.
Though it was not stated in the motion, DSU President Thomas Mitzel said Monday at the meeting that he wants to work with neighborhood residents and property owners to ensure students who live in Blue Hawk Square don’t clog up areas typically set aside for residential parking.
Mitzel said he would like the city to provide neighborhood residents with streetside parking passes or stickers that would help differentiate their vehicles from those driven by students living in Blue Hawk Square. He said that would keep the students from parking on the side streets.
“You’d have to have residential stickers to park on those blocks,” Mitzel said.
Neighborhood property owners weren’t too keen on the idea though.
Dave Bauer, owner of Bauer Property Management, told the board he owns a home along 10th Avenue West near Blue Hawk Square and expressed concern about residential parking passes and questioned who’d enforce it.
“It’s logistically quite a nightmare to enforce something as simple as a parking sticker,” Bauer said. “Just the thought of having a resident have a parking sticker to park in their own neighborhood, on their own street by their own driveway seems maybe not the best solution.”
Todd Berger, who owns rental properties in the neighborhood, echoed Bauer’s statements and said since Blue Hawk Square was built, the alley by his properties has become “jam packed” with cars. He added that he had to “carve out” parking areas for renters of his properties at his expense after Blue Hawk Square was constructed.
Berger said he was also concerned DSU felt its only option was to place a resident advisor in an off-campus facility owned and operated by a private entity to help police the facility and its surrounding city streetside parking.
He added in an interview that he’s also concerned about the lack of handicapped parking near the building. The closest off-street handicapped parking would be at the Oasis Motel.
“Even though there’s parking passes and things like that, the tenants
— out of habit — will park right on the street because it’s right by the door,” Berger said. “Let’s get the parking right. It wasn’t done right the first time.”
Lloyd and Pam Lindbo, who live on 10th Avenue West, gave the board several photos — all screenshots from their security camera — that showed cars blocking their driveway and parked illegally.
“A good day,” Pam said, was a photograph taken when 10th Avenue West was lined with cars on both sides and none blocked their driveway. Lloyd Lindbo, who gave a passionate speech to the board during its Aug. 8 meeting, simply said he just wants the issue “to be done right.”
Jeff Moore, market president for Dacotah Bank, reiterated his comments from the Aug. 8 meeting that the bank is looking to buy nearby lots for student parking.
Some of those lots have houses or buildings that would need to be torn down to make way for a parking lot. “We want to be good neighbors,” he said.
“We are making every attempt we can make to alleviate the on-street parking. … In the long run, we hope to have some parking near Blue Hawk Square.”