At a contentious May 5 public meeting, Hennepin County officials agreed to delay a controversial West 50th Street re-striping to talk more with 50th Street businesspeople.
Approximately 300 residents and business owners packed the Pershing Park meeting room, leaving many to listen outside the door or through the windows. The mood was hostile towards city and county officials such as 13th Ward City Councilmember Barret Lane and Hennepin County Commissioner Gail Dorfman. Those against the plan yelled and repeatedly interrupted speakers.
The county’s proposal would change West 50th Street from a four-lane undivided road to a three-lane road with one lane in each direction and a center left-turn lane. The new design would wipe out many parking spots in the three major business nodes at Bryant, Penn and Xerxes avenues, drawing much of the crowd’s ire.
Fulton resident Kathy Shea and Lynnhurst resident Peter Nussbaum, both on the redesign taskforce, spoke for the plan, but most in attendance spoke loudly against it. Opponents said reduced parking would hurt neighborhood businesses, push traffic into neighborhood streets and would do nothing to slow speeds on 50th.
Fulton resident Paul Hunkins said he lives a block off West 50th Street and is against the plan. He said he doesn’t want to see any more parking on his street. Hunkins said better use should be made of existing parking to assure the survival of neighborhood businesses.
Fulton resident Linda Mortensen lives and works in the neighborhood and said she’s against the plan because it will force all traffic and parking further into her neighborhood, where it’s already scarce.
In a joint effort with many Fulton and Lynnhurst businesses, Lynn Gaspardo, owner of Doin’ the Dishes, 3008 W. 50th St., helped conduct a survey of residents and customers for alternative ideas to the plan, which she distributed amongst the crowd. The counterproposal called for removing all West 50th parking restrictions, increasing parking and staggering traffic lights. Gaspardo said that the businesses have begun to form an association to confront this issue with a unified front.
Following hours of listening to resident and business complaints regarding the project, Dorfman said she agreed to delay the project — originally scheduled for June or July to re-examine the issue in another meeting with business owners.
"It’s not a done deal," Dorfman said.