Parsons city commissioners were met Monday evening with a barrage of objections to a proposed ordinance that would outlaw parking in yards.
The commissioners discussed the ordinance during a regular meeting but tabled it for possible later action. The commission also discussed a separate ordinance that would restrict the length of vehicles parking on Main Street in the downtown area but also declined to act on it Monday.
The commission room was packed for the meeting, mostly with people opposed to the yard parking ordinance, and several spoke in opposition to it. Mayor Bill Hogelin asked Police Chief Robert Spinks to escort a man out of the meeting after he spoke out of turn several times, but the man left on his own.
Mayor Bill Hogelin proposed the parking ordinance several weeks ago, citing the unsightly appearance of vehicles parked in yards and the ruts that are sometimes created.
The ordinance would make it illegal to park any vehicle in front or side yards unless on an all-weather surface such as concrete, brick, asphalt, rock or chip and seal.
The ordinance also would make it unlawful to park truck tractors and construction equipment on any streets or city rights-of-way as well as motor vehicles longer than 25 feet, recreational vehicles and boats for longer than 48 hours except during use or work involving the vehicles.
The people speaking against the ordinance generally said they should be allowed to park on their own property without city interference. They also cited safety concerns caused by more cars parked on city streets and the cost involved with paving or graveling a part of their yard. Resentment about the proposed ordinance sparked other complaints about the city staff, inaction on other problems, high utility bills and property taxes.
Before the issue was opened for public comment, Commissioner Tom Shaw said the commission must try to think of unforeseen impacts before deciding on the ordinance. He said one person in town has a fishing boat on a trailer parked in a yard. The property has no driveway or alley, making it difficult to pull into the backyard. With the ordinance restricting to parking boats and trailers on city streets to 48 hours and making it illegal to park in yards, Shaw said he didn’t know where the person could park the boat.
“I don’t really want to put people in that kind of spot, and I think we’re doing that. But it would be nice to not have mud holes in yards, too,” Shaw said.
Amy Samples told the commission 150 people had signed a petition against the ordinance in just two days. She plans to continue adding names to submit it to the city later.
Samples said some disabled people told her they are worried about not being able to park close to their homes. Renters are concerned their landlords won’t install off-street parking, she said.
Samples said parking in the street raises safety concerns because drivers can’t see children running out into the street between vehicles. She also said some households have multiple families and not enough room in a driveway to park all of their cars.
Speaking for herself, Samples said she only has a side yard and no backyard where she can park cars. It’s a small yard and she would rather have her children still have grass to play on instead of covering it with gravel.
Mike Thomas said he has three vehicles, a camper and some trailers and doesn’t have space to park all of them in his driveway. His intersection is busy, so he thinks parking cars on the street would be dangerous. Thomas said he can’t afford to pay for 15 tons of gravel to create parking spaces.
Lora Garrett said her house doesn’t have a driveway either. She and her husband work hard every day, she said, but they barely make enough money to pay for all of their bills and raise their three children. They can’t afford to add off-street parking, she said.
“It’s a small town. It’s not a city,” Garrett said. “We are a small community. We are not rich by any means. We make do.”
Cindy Lane, who lives outside of the city but owns two homes here, asked if the ordinance was written in response to a nuisance. She said if so, maybe an existing ordinance could cover the problem. Lane said she knows three people who left Coffeyville because of restrictions on their property that are similar to housing association rules, including no parking in yards.
“I just don’t think that’s a good direction for Parsons to be headed,” Lane said.
Lane also requested the city to run a cost analysis for placing gravel in yard to create parking spaces. Furthermore she pointed out that Tom Davis Chevrolet parks vehicles on grass near its lot. If a business is able to continue doing that, she said residents should be allowed as well.
Lorraine Royer said her son’s car recently was hit by a drunk driver, so he started parking it in his yard, as his landlord suggested.
“They shouldn’t be fined to protect what they work for,” Royer said.
While there was plenty to be said about the yard parking ordinance, only the commission addressed the downtown parking ordinance.
The downtown parking ordinance would require drivers to leave at least 20 feet of open roadway on Main Street from 17th Street to Central Avenue unless they are loading or unloading. The city has received numerous complaints over the last several years concerning long pickup trucks or other vehicles parking in the downtown area and sticking out into traffic. If the ordinance is approved, yellow lines would be painted on each side of Main Street. If vehicles extend beyond the lines, drivers could be ticketed. The fine would be the same as for other parking violations — $30.
Shaw said he has been an advocate of doing something to improve driver and pedestrian safety downtown, but he is now not sure if the proposed ordinance is the right way to do it.
Shaw said former Commissioner Tommey McLarty recently reminded him that years ago when the Parsons Plaza was removed and Main Street was opened for traffic the commission considered creating 60-degree angle parking instead of 45-degree parking. Some business owners objected to the 60-degree parking because it would reduce the number of parking spaces by the storefronts. The 60-degree parking would allow for wider driving lanes.
McLarty told Shaw that passing the parking ordinance now instead of fixing the original problem is like “putting lipstick on a pig.”
Shaw proposed checking into the number of spaces that would be lost by revamping the parking to 60-degree angled parking.
Shaw said four-door trucks would be able to park downtown by barely fitting in behind the yellow line, but they still would create a danger to people backing out of adjacent spaces and drivers going down Main Street who have trouble seeing beyond the trucks.
“This would probably help, but I don’t know if it will fix what we’re trying to fix,” Shaw said.
Commissioners Jeff Perez and Kevin Cruse indicated they may not favor changing the angle of parking lines downtown, but City Manager Debbie Lamb will have workers chalk out some examples so that commissioners can check out the difference before their next work session.