A previous version of this story contained an error about a City Council action at the Tuesday meeting. City Council voted to table the changes of city code about parking spots reserved for drivers with disabilities at the item's first reading on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, Harrisonburg City Council unanimously approved proposed changes to parking. However, since it was the first reading of the changes, they will not go into effect yet, according to city spokesperson Michael Parks.

The proposed changes would require those with guest cards and permit parking decals in permit zones to park within 500 feet of the property the permit is issued for. This is to stop drivers from parking on the other end of a permit parking zone and walking to another destination, according to city documents.

Another approved change raises the price of a parking permit from $3 to $5 and allows dumpsters and storage containers be in front of residential property for up to 72 hours, according to city documents.

The ordinance amendments also create a way for the city to remove a permit parking zone. The city would be required to give notice to properties and property owners in the zone about opportunities for public comment before council takes action, according to city documents.

The Harrisonburg Police Department requested the changes, according to city documents.

A separate change, which Council tabled, would raise the potential fine for unlawfully parking in a space reserved for a person with disabilities from $100 to up to $500 as part of the city code being updated to mirror state code, according to city documents.

Also on Tuesday, council heard a resolution that included tasking City Manager Eric Campbell and City Attorney Chris Brown with providing council with a legal path to establishing a housing fund.

“There was never a question that this council did not want to explore the housing trust fund,” Mayor Deanna Reed said at the digital meeting. “We clearly have that in our council’s vision that we did, what, two years ago now?”

Housing trust funds, once begun by localities, receive public funding and private donations to promote affordable housing, according to the Housing Trust Fund Project, a group that provides information about the initiatives.

“I think what we’re doing is exactly what we’re supposed to do as leaders and council members,” Reed said.

The resolution also directs city staff to prepare a formal strategy on how to implement solutions based on findings from the recently completed Comprehensive Housing Assessment and Market Study.

In March, before the housing study was underway, local multifaith religious organization Faith in Action called for the city and county to invest $750,000 for a joint affordable housing trust fund.

On Tuesday, the group sent out a press release voicing support for the establishment of a housing fund in a letter with statements from Shannon Porter, executive director of Mercy House, and David Wenger, executive director of the Central Valley Habitat for Humanity.

“We’re excited by the leadership of Harrisonburg to create a housing trust fund, and we also want to see similar steps in Rockingham County,” Nadia Dames, chair of the Faith in Action Affordable Housing campaign and the Islamic Association of the Shenandoah Valley, said in the release. “The majority of new housing is happening in the county. As we talked with residents, housing developers, realtors, and financial institutions, they recognize that the housing market doesn’t offer an equitable opportunity for our working families. Our city and county need to be working together.”

Also during the meeting, council approved a write-off for outstanding 2019 utility payments and a tax refund for a city business due to an accounting mix-up.

Council approved the refund for the company’s machinery and tools tax payments from 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 amounting to over $103,000, plus interest, according to city documents. Staff approved the action, according to city documents.

The name of the company is protected by attorney-client privilege, according to city documents.

Before the end of the meeting, City Council entered into two closed sessions.

The two closed session items were announced on Tuesday morning, according to an email from Pamela Ulmer, city clerk.

The subjects of the closed sessions included “actual or probable litigation related to the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center” and publicization of prospective businesses seeking to locate in the city, according to city documents.

Contact Ian Munro at 574-6278 or imunro@dnronline.com. Follow Ian on Twitter @iamIanMunro

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