Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
Washington parking changes inch forward
WASHINGTON — Several facets of the Washington City Council’s proposed parking ordinance reforms passed their first readings at a meeting last week, but others remain in the wings.
Plenty of controversy on the changes remain. Council Member Elaine Moore said it was not the city’s burden to provide parking for residents.
“When you purchase a vehicle, when your kids purchase a vehicle, you don’t say, ‘This is the responsibility of somebody else,’” she said. “It is their responsibility to have a place to park … there are how many households in this town, and if we put one car from every household on our streets, are we going to have room?”
Still, many in the city are more hesitant to make sweeping changes.
“I think we have to remember that our citizens are our customers,” Mayor Jaron Rosien said. “Taking into account what they say to us is important and we should … consider that, keep that in mind.”
Handful of parking changes move forward, others expected, some pushed back
Some parking code changes may be close to final approval. Along with a second reading of city code chapter 70 — which regulates enforcement of parking violations — the city council has signed off on a first reading on parking limitations on several streets discussed in the last few months.
Those changes cover a list the council has called “low-hanging fruit,” including one-sided parking on Green Meadows, East Tyler Street and Campbell Drive, as well as several small no-parking zones scattered around North Marion Avenue, West Third Street and North Iowa, among others.
The list also includes a series of proposals written into the list from the start, but not discussed yet by council for lack of visual aids. Police Chief Jim Lester said those items were still included in the first reading approved last week, but provided new slides to spotlight them for discussion.
One such area is a portion of North Fourth Avenue, from Main Street to East Fifth. While a visual aid for the change was included in the original slideshow, discussion was overshadowed by a wave of resident pushback for regulations on Main Street and Second Avenue in the same area.
Lester said he was still in favor of an east-side parking ban through the area.
“That is a busy street, we’ve had multiple accidents at Fourth and Main, and when you’ve got cars parked … all those intersections have line of sight issues,” he said.
While council members considered limiting the parking to ban to within 70 feet of intersections, Moore said it should extend through the area.
“I think we really need to take into consideration how many kids ride their bikes up and down that street to school, and the buses,” she said.
Officials said they were comfortable moving forward on the plan.
“I’m hearing from most that this is one to stick,” he said. “This can remain in the mix.”
Another newly highlighted plan would alter chapter 69 of city code. The new language would allow the city to enforce no-parking zones along yellow-painted curbs, even if they don’t have a sign posted.
“It’s a simple change in wording to not have a sign everywhere there’s a yellow zone,” Lester said.
Council members said they had no concerns with the change, leaving it on the list of likely-to-pass ordinance changes.
Other items from the list of the newly highlighted proposals, however, were put on the back burner as council members said they wanted to wait before taking action.
The first of those policies were on South Avenue B and South Avenue C, where Lester suggested the current school-hour parking bans on the west side of the street from West Madison to West Tyler Street become permanent no-parking zones.
“There’s lots of traffic, lots of issues during the school time, but also when there’s events happening at the school,” he said.
Council Member Fran Stigers said he’d heard complaints from residents on C avenue, though they hadn’t come before council themselves. He said he’d inform those living along the streets before the meeting to prompt feedback. Others said they saw no need for a change.
“I guess I’m in favor of just keeping the school zone during school times,” Council Member Illa Earnest said. “I don’t quite understand why we need the permanent thing.”
Officials hope not to over-regulate trucks, campers
Regulations for trucks and trailers mark another area of initial proposals that were delayed for lack of discussion.
The suggested changes would add commercial vehicles, motor homes and travel trailers to the list of things banned from parking on city streets between sunrise and sunset, as well as pickup truck-trailer combinations totaling 40 feet or more.
Rosien said he worried the rule would come down too hard on responsible camper owners.
“I see lots of people that are doing the responsible thing,” he said. “They are not storing their travel trailer or camper in town, they are storing it out of town … but then before they go on their trip, it travels into town, it sits on the streets specifically from sunset to sunrise, where they’ve loaded it and packed it, and then off it goes.”
Lester said discretion of officers would prevent enforcement of the code that was stricter than intended.
“It could be an education thing where we get the call and go make them aware … ‘What’s the status of this motor home in front of the house?’” he said. “And if it’s, ‘We’re leaving tomorrow,’ it’s no big deal. It’s our discretion with enforcement.”
While officials are considering a reworded ordinance that would create exceptions for loading motor homes and travel trailers, City Attorney Kevin Olson said it might be tricky to write around.
“It might be problematic because we’re getting into peoples’ … state of mind,” he said. “But I will put that on my list to do.”
Another option, floated by Lester, would be leaving motor home and travel trailer codes unchanged. Under current regulations, the vehicles may park on city streets, but for no more than 24 hours.
City officials said they would wait to advance the changes as options are explored.
Talks begin over snow ordinance
Changes to the city’s snow parking codes were introduced in early July, but discussion was overshadowed by controversy over other changes that would have banned and limited parking on some streets year-round.
With the most contested items on the back burner, city officials discussed those snow ordinance proposals at last week’s meeting.
Suggested reforms include an automatic snow ban on parking as well as increased fines and reduced street parking during snowy weather.
Rosien said the automatic mechanism would provide an alternative to declaring snow emergency, which he has said he prefers not to make.
“Others have, but it’s not something I do,” he said. “I think I did it once, it was foolhardy, the snow didn’t even fall.”
Rather than relying on mayoral declarations to clear the streets for snow removal, the new ordinance would prohibit all vehicles from being left “parked abandoned, or unattended on any street or alley in the city during snow removal operations, or before such operations have removed or cleared accumulated snow or ice.”
The widespread street parking ban during snow events would exempt the super square area from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays, and “during normal weekend, evening, or holiday hours.”
Lester said the more absolute policy would clear a path for maintenance crews clearing snow and ice from the streets.
“This is designed to allow for safe, efficient removal,” he said. “When they’re out there, removing the snow, people should not be parking on the street … if we could just get the streets cleared, and cars not parking there during snow removal, the streets would get cleared faster, they could get back on the street faster.”
Council Member Bethany Glinsmann, however, said the change would put many residents in a bind, especially those without driveways.
“I totally agree with the intent of this, we want to make our snow removal efficient and quick and get it over, get it done,” she said. “I do have concerns, though, about numerous properties across the city that don’t have access to off-street parking … Where are people supposed to go? Some can park in the neighbor’s driveway, that’s great, but I don’t think everyone has that option.”
Another effect of the new snow removal code would be raising the cost of tickets for street parking during snow removal from $25 to $50. Lester said some residents viewed the current cost as an expense, rather than complying with code.
“Add a little more to that, and it wouldn’t be, ‘Oh, I’ll pay that every time it snows,’” he said. “There’s a little more incentive to get the car off your street.”
Lester said tickets would usually come 24 hours after snow removal started, even if it meant plows had to go around cars.
Council Member Steve Gault said the change wasn’t strict enough, and suggested towing cars that didn’t move in time.
“When we’ve got a snow emergency, it’s a snow emergency … get your car off the street,” he said. “It would only take somebody one time, or one time for their neighbors getting their car towed … they shouldn’t have to go back and keep doing streets just because somebody’s too lazy to get their car off the street.”
The snow code additions did not receive a first reading at the meeting. Rosien said the city would continue to hash out the issue.
“As we move it forward, it’s not in the ordinance right now,” he said. “It can be changed, amended, and voted down. I think for the moment, the majority of you said it remains in the pile, (but) the concerns presented are valid.”