PROVO An 11th-hour request by Brigham Young University late Tuesday afternoon persuaded the Provo City Council to postpone a vote on limiting parking on the streets south of campus.
The BYU letter arrived at 4:15 p.m., just 75 minutes before the council met for dinner prior to its two meetings on Tuesday night. Several on the council were already interested in delaying the vote, and as they ate, council members immediately built a unanimous consensus to grant the university's request.
The council voted to postpone a decision until Jan. 22, to allow more time to work with BYU officials and students.
"We've been asking for some period of time for a dialogue," council Chairman George Stewart said. "We will now be having a dialogue."
BYU's late leap into the fray was prompted by a stark about-face executed by the council. Originally, the on-street parking permit program was designed to force landlords in the neighborhood to stop renting to more tenants than city ordinance allows. Over the past two weeks, the proposal morphed into a program to keep commuters from parking on the streets.
"If the city is going to change the focus of its parking program, we ask for additional time and discussion to re-evaluate how we should consider parking when contracting for student housing," wrote BYU housing director Julie Franklin.
BYU allows students under the age of 25 to live off campus only in apartments that have BYU-contracted housing (previously known as BYU-approved housing). The contracts require landlords to enforce certain standards, including the university honor code.
"With regard to the revised residential parking proposal under review, we recommend delaying a final decision until its actual impact can be further analyzed and better understood," Franklin added.
The proposal would limit parking on the streets in the North Joaquin Neighborhood, which stretches from 500 North to BYU's southern border on 800 North and from University Avenue to 900 East. Only neighborhood residents would get permits to park on those streets from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. between Sept. 1 and the following April 30. The council is considering including some visitor parking spots along each block.
The permits would cost $25 per year and be issued only to qualifying landlords.
City leaders have been working with incomplete data. They learned last week, based on the city's rental dwelling licenses, that approval has been granted for 11,991 singles to live in the entire Joaquin Neighborhood, which stretches south to Center Street. That larger area has just 11,289 total on- and off-street parking spots. The city hasn't been able to break down that information to detail how many students and parking spots there are in North Joaquin alone.
BYU's Franklin provided some additional data in her letter. She said about 8,200 single residents live in North Joaquin. She offered to work with the city to provide additional data.
Student representation was suppressed by the Thanksgiving holiday there are no BYU classes today but about 20 students still paraded to the podium during the public hearing Tuesday night. Mainly, they complained that the council had been hurrying toward a decision and hadn't provided enough information to students.
"If it weren't from the pressure from the BYU administration, you wouldn't be giving it this consideration," recent BYU graduate Sam Wright said.
Wright and many others credited the council for compromises it made in the past week at students' behest, and for the effort it has put into the proposal.
"I was adamantly opposed to the original proposal," said Dave Morgan, who owns a home in the neighborhood. "It's amazing you spend so much time listening to people. We know it's changed. The students know it's changed."
Council members expressed frustration when students complained they didn't have enough of a voice in the city.
"We have a position for a BYU Neighborhood chair," said Cynthia Dayton, who represents much of the BYU campus. "Nobody will fill it."
Council members have reviewed hundreds of e-mails and fielded nearly as many phone calls. They encouraged additional feedback at parking.provo.org and said they look forward to seeing additional data from BYU.
"No one is predisposed to any outcome," Councilman Steve Turley said, "and we're trying to put together the best thinking we can."
The need to address parking in the neighborhood has existed for more than 40 years. It became a pressing issue this year when the council approved a 952-apartment complex called Joaquin Village at 500 East and 500 North. The council agreed to allow Joaquin Village to build with fewer off-street parking spots than normally is required.The council did so because developers said about 40 percent of the tenants would be students without cars, which they believe is reasonable because Joaquin Village is little more than the length of a football field from campus. Council members see the project as another step toward their goal of creating more walkable communities in the city.