Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
WASHINGTON — A total of 15 residents spoke their minds at a Washington City Council meeting Tuesday night, most of them bringing complaints about a litany of parking ordinance changes scheduled for a possible first reading. That reading was delayed in light of the speakers’ concerns.
Many of those complaints came from Highland Avenue, where residents said a proposal to end street parking — currently limited to one side of the road — did not reflect their wishes.
“Our block has very limited traffic, there is quite a bit of parking … to completely get rid of parking would be a disservice to my neighborhood,” Highland resident Merissa Fox said. “If we take away that one side, you’re forcing people to walk clear down the street and around the corner just to come visit. We also, at my house, are a one-stall garage, two-vehicle household. This takes away parking for us.”
Those in the neighborhood said they could resolve issues themselves without city ordinance changes.
“I would hope it could be resolved in a much better way than our third vehicle having to park on 15th,” said Gail Moore, another Highland resident, during a public comment period. “We all get along great as neighbors. When people are on vacation we watch out for one another, if a car is parked too much in my driveway I’ll say, ‘Hey, can you move your truck?’”
A sticking point for Highland residents was that most of the complaints sparking the city proposal came from one caller.
“A neighbor on the street has called over 24 times to complain about vehicles parking,” resident Brent Wilson said. “Zero citations that have ever stuck have been given in those three years that she’s been there … you are supposed to be there for all the people, not just one person.”
Council Member Steve Gault said he sympathized with that concern.
“If we had somebody that continually called the police and said, ‘My neighbor’s dog’s barking,’ and the neighbor’s dog wasn’t barking, eventually we would have to do something,” he said. “Maybe we are looking at the wrong problem.”
Other streets were not immune to community pushback. A handful along one stretch of East Main Street said they opposed plans to limit parking to one side of the road.
“These properties weren’t built with parking available,” said Katherine Bowen, who owns Tiny Treasures day care along the street. “If you close the side, the minibus has to have the 3-year-olds crossing the street, which isn’t safe, instead of being able to just pull up to my property. I feel like it creates a significant hardship for my business alone.”
Many complained they were not made aware of the proposed changes along their own streets. While First Ward Council Member Bethany Glinsmann distributed notices of the proposed changes to residents in her ward, much of the city remains unaware.
“Traffic studies have not been conducted to substantiate the viability of the proposed changes, future consequences … have not been addressed,” speaker Jennifer Durst said. “Citizens in affected areas have not been notified, no other measures are being proposed to reduce speed, at least in my area, or for alternatives for parking.”
City delays first reading, attempts to separate controversial plans for individual consideration
After roughly 40 minutes of public comment, Mayor Jaron Rosien said he would recommend against passing a first reading of the ordinance changes, a suggestion council members agreed to later in the agenda.
“I am going to recommend that … it is separated out so adjustments can be made,” Rosien said. “It’s important to listen and to do so and remain calm and figure out what needs to remain and what needs to change. With potential changes, the reason there’s three readings is for exactly input like this.”
During a work session later in the meeting, city officials made attempts to separate “low hanging fruit” from more contentious proposals. Less controversial areas include school time parking limits along Sixth Avenue and South Fourth Avenue, one-sided parking along Circle Drive and East Tyler, and limits along a short portion of South Avenue C.
While the less controversial areas were identified by a lack of public comments, council members said they would take efforts to inform residents on affected streets to ensure a chance for feedback.
“I got a lot of feedback, even from folks who didn’t show up,” Glinsmann said. “Just because they weren’t here doesn’t mean they agree … I think they should be notified.”
Controversial proposals get separate votes, varying solutions
Plans for street changes that got more pushback are scheduled for separate votes, not grouped with other, less controversial ordinance changes. Rosien said the approach was the most responsible option.
“I’d like these to be separate votes, that way we can do our due diligence,” he said. “We’re leaving the ones that we think solve problems, and then the ones that might cause problems, we will vote on separately and seek change or more input.”
On Highland, the council still is considering parking limits, but only along the curve. The move would still limit some parking, but address a part of the road that has been responsible for accidents in the last 10 years.
“There’s almost kind of a blind spot with cars parked there,” Police Chief Jim Lester said. “And once you move over to get around, it’s essentially one lane.”
At North Marion and Iowa avenues, Glinsmann suggested addressing speeding issues rather than parking.
“Folks on Marion of course are not happy to lose their parking, but the speed issue has come up a lot,” she said. “I haven’t heard us talk about solutions for that. I know it’s a separate issue but I think they go hand in hand … I wonder if we can come up with a way to address speeding, and folks might be more agreeable.”
On East Main and East Second, council members said they were open to reduced restrictions.
“I would support, on the block with the church on it, and making sure the intersections are marked,” Moore said. “As far as going on down … I would support staying as we have, on Second and Main.”
The council did not hear feedback regarding plans to restrict all street parking on Green Meadows, Lester said he had re-evaluated the neighborhood and recommended a one-sided parking ordinance.
“I had a person approach me indicating that some of the major problem out there, they believe, is going to be alleviated with some changes of property ownership,” he said. “My suggestion would be that … it be the west and south sides, and that’s the side where mailboxes were at, and that was one of the issues, so we’re not dealing with cars parking and blocking the mailboxes.”