Moving your car within the same block in a 2-hour-free parking zone will not necessarily insulate you from a citation. Once time is up, your car needs to move on and not come back to that stretch of curb until the next day.

The same thing goes for city-owned free parking ramps and lots with time limits.

That is how La Crosse police interpret the city’s parking ordinance. A proposed revision working its way to the Common Council will replace interpretation with clear language.

The impetus for the change to the city code 44-103 is two-fold: to add appropriate ordinance language for the new pay station parking system that will launch downtown in early August, and to clarify some issues for parking enforcement and the public, Parking Utility Coordinator James Flottmeyer said.

Council member Jacqueline Marcou is the lone sponsor listed on the legislation to replace code section 44-103, titled “Tampering with marks on tires.” Assistant Police Chief Robert Abraham and Flottmeyer referenced this code section as the basis for current enforcement practices.

It does not specifically state how long a vehicle must be away from a parking zone with time limits nor how far a vehicle must move when time expires.

Abraham said the section is “very ambiguous and confusing.”

When people question or challenge a citation on those grounds, police have a prepared statement to offer: “Reference City Ordinance 44-103 (b). You may park on one side of a city block for the posted time limit one time per day. If you leave and return to the same block, you must park on a different block face. The time restriction posted does not restart if you leave and return; you are considered to have continuously parked.”

“We have always enforced it that way and it has been backed up by the courts,” Abraham said.

The new language spells out the details for metered parking and the free parking with time limits. In both cases, signage noting the restrictions must be present.

Regarding free street parking with posted time limits, just moving a vehicle within a block face — which is defined as one side a city block — or leaving and returning to the same block face does not restart the clock.

“Continuously parked means once a vehicle is parked, the posted time restriction starts and does not stop or suspend regardless of movement within a single block face or after leaving and returning to the same block face,” the new language says.

A vehicle can only park within a time-limited block face, parking lot or ramp only one time per calendar day.

“Once a vehicle has parked and then moves, it cannot return to the same single block face until the next calendar day,” the new ordinance language says. It repeats the same for lots and ramps.

The new language also specifies rules for the new pay station or metered parking, including how vehicles must be correctly parked within the lines.

It also says that before noon, commercial trucks and vehicles have 30 minutes to use metered parking spaces without paying to stop and load or unload. They must be centered as nearly as possible in a single metered space.

Marcou is also sponsoring legislation removing the stated street boundaries from an ordinance that restricted parking to an hour on downtown streets between 2 and 8 a.m. Signage will designate the restriction locations.

The Board of Public Works approved the ordinance changes and recommends the Common Council do so as well.

Abraham said the city has consulted business owners on the changes.

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