Regulatory ignorance is parking bliss.
Ying Lee and her family moved to northeast Minneapolis two years ago, and have lived in a relative parker's paradise for those two years. The house's back driveway, half-paved and half-gravel, can fit six cars, more than perfect for a family of seven with five cars.
Two days into the new year, though, the family received a notice that, due to a city of Minneapolis ordinance, they’re only allowed to park two cars in their oversized driveway. The family obliged, but the weather did not.
When the city called a snow emergency on January 15, Lee’s family thought they were being dutiful Minneapolis residents by getting their cars into the driveway and leaving the street to the plows. She says they planned to leave the cars in the driveway for the night, then move three of them back to the street.
The next day, the family was slapped with a hefty $200 fine from the city. Lee was stunned by the city's lack of understanding, and by the penalty.
“I saw that, and I just kind of screamed, ‘What? Two hundred dollars?’” Lee said.
Lee posted about her driveway ordeal on Facebook, where she found many sympathetic fellow citizens; the post was met with nearly 500 replies. Most expressed shock that the ordinance exists, others shared a few expletives in solidarity with the Lees, and many did both.
They might be even more shocked to learn fines like Lee's are hardly a rare occurrence. Since January 2017, Minneapolis handed out over 275 fees in relation to this violation.
In an email, Greta Bergstrom, communications director for the city of Minneapolis, said the ordinance is in place to “ensure residential lawns do not become parking lots.” Bergstrom also noted that residents are only fined if they don’t stop after the initial notice.
Ward 2 Councilmember Cam Gordon said he has only vaguely heard of instances where this is an issue, and struggled to come up with a reason for it.
“I’m not even sure it’s illegal,” he said. “I’m usually pretty good at mimicking a good rationale for coming up with these things.”
For what it’s worth, Lee and her family are attempting to appeal the fine, but have not heard back from the city.
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