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Committee recommends implementation of boulevard parking restrictions

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By Rich Bauer, Managing Editor

Vandalia residents whose vehicles have been blocking passages for pedestrians and vehicular traffic – even when they use their driveway – have been given a few weeks to come up with a new parking spot.

And as the enforcement of the city ordinance that prohibits obstructing traffic is stepped up, the city is putting in place new guidelines for parking vehicles on residential boulevards.

At a lengthy meeting last Wednesday night, the Vandalia City Council’s streets and sewers committee agreed to have the city enforce the following ordinance:

“No person shall obstruct or endanger, or place, or permit anything to obstruct or endanger the free passage or proper use of the public of any street, side-walk, crosswalk, bridge, or entrance to any church, theater, hotel, school, or public hall, or building, except as may be necessary while loading or unloading any goods, merchandise, materials or persons.”

Alderman Bret Brosman, chairman of the streets and sewers committee, said the reason for stepping up enforcement of the ordinance is complaints about sidewalks being blocked by vehicles.

“We have a lot of people, throughout our community, who have two cars and have driveways that were built for one car.

“Over the normal course of the day, they are obstructing our sidewalks,” he said.

Police Chief Larry Eason said his department hears about that on a regular basis.

“I get complaints,” Eason said. “We could write 50 tickets a week.”

“But where else are they going to park?” Eason said.

The committee agreed to leave the ordinance as it is, and to let violators know that they have to park their vehicles elsewhere.

A key issue with stepping up enforcement of that ordinance, committee members agreed, is phasing in that enforcement with a grace period.

“I wouldn’t want us to just start writing tickets,” Brosman said.

Aldermen Jerry Swarm and Larry Cable agreed. “I’d give them warnings first,” Swarm said.

The plan is to begin stricter enforcement of that ordinance on Oct. 1. That plan also calls for the city to initially give a violator a verbal warning through the rest of this month, then to begin on Oct. 1 with a written warning and then tickets for subsequent violations.

Eason said the city would likely issue a ticket carrying a $15 fine for violators of this ordinance, though a fine of up to $75 is permissible by law.

Committee members and Eason conceded that stricter enforcement of this ordinance means that some residents will want to park their vehicles in a second manner that is causing concerns.

“What this will lead to,” Eason said, “is that they will park in their yard or on the boulevard.”

That was one of the reasons the committee meeting was set – to address Mayor Rick Gottman’s concerns about boulevard (right of way) parking creating unsightly areas in towns.

“It (the right of way) is torn up,” Gottman said at the July 21 meeting. “It’s unacceptable.”

To address the current problems and the likely increase of boulevard parking, the committee is recommending the council approve an ordinance amendment that stipulates that vehicles may not be parked on a boulevard or right of way unless that area is “improved.”

The committee agreed to the definition of “improved” as concrete, asphalt of CA-6 rock.

“We want to send out a clear message of our expectations for our real estate,” Brosman said.

Eason would also like to see the recommended ordinance amendment stipulate that any parking areas on the boulevard would have to be accessed through a driveway (curb cut), so as to not have vehicles driving over curbs or through grassy areas where there are no curbs.

To ensure that they are meeting the requirements set by city ordinance for such parking areas, residents can talk with Public Works Director John Moyer.

The idea of waiting until Oct. 1 to begin stricter enforcement on the ordinance governing the obstruction of sidewalks was suggested because that may cause residents to park on boulevards.

“I think we need a little phase-in time, because people may have to call a contractor, get gravel in or otherwise prepare the (boulevard) surface,” Brosman said.

Also at the meeting, the committee discussed discrepancies between city ordinance and traffic signage in the community, as well as speed limit posting in some areas.

These issues were brought to the committee’s attention by Eason, who has studied ordinances governing traffic and found some inconsistencies by driving around town.

The biggest inconsistency, he said, is that state law sets the speed limit in urban areas as 30 mph, unless otherwise posed. A Vandalia ordinance states that the speed limit within city boundaries is 25 mph, unless otherwise posted.

The committee supported Eason’s request that city ordinance be changed to mirror state law.

Coming out the meeting were recommendations to post 20 mph signs on roads running next to city parks, including on Fillmore Street from Eighth Street to Locust Street, and downtown on Fourth Street (from Madison Street to Edwards Street), Fifth Street (from Madison Street to Johnson Street) and Third Street (from Gallatin Street to Edwards Street).

The council will also be asked to look at parking signage, including the removal of No Parking signs on Eighth Street from Edwards Street to Johnson Street.

It will be asked to consider an ordinance amendment that states that No Parking areas are to be indicated by signage and/or yellow paint on curbing.