City to draft new parking ordinance

Areas around college would be off limits to students, county and other city residents

BUCKHANNON — Buckhannon City Council shifted into drive Thursday night relative to a new law that would police parking around West Virginia Wesleyan College’s campus.

Following a recommendation by the Consolidated Public Works Board, council voted to direct city attorney Tom O’Neill to draft an ordinance that would designate certain portions of College Avenue and other streets surrounding the college as residential-only  parking during daytime hours.

The Consolidated Public Works Board made the recommendation to council at its May meeting in response to city residents Tim Reese and Mike McCauley voicing concerns about Wesleyan students, faculty and staff parking on the streets when school is in session. He and other residents have been unable to find parking as a result of the trend, Reese told council Thursday.

“When school gets back in session, I mean every single parking space from 8 a.m. to
5 p.m. is taken,” Reese said. “I don’t drive, but people drive me, and they can’t come to my house, they can’t park. One of my neighbors is elderly and they can’t park and get their groceries out.”

Reese proposed the city institute a residential-only parking policy from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, which would leave evenings and weekends open for students and their families to park on the streets, he said. Reese added that students sometimes leave their vehicles parked on residential streets for a week or longer, making it difficult for residents to keep up their properties.

“They can’t take care of their landscaping,” he said. “There’s a very big loss of motivation for people who want to take care of their properties because they’re just blocked in by cars.”

An 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. policy wouldn’t hinder county residents — or city residents who live in other areas of the municipality — from parking on streets surrounding the college while attending events on the weekends, Reese said.

Mayor David McCauley, who is the college’s attorney, said he’d shared the idea with college officials.

“They understand the plight of folks who live on the periphery of campus,” McCauley said.

“They weren’t against it. They did ask that if council was to do this that they be given a heads up so that they could assure students that, hey, you can still buy a Wesleyan parking permit.

“I guess you could argue the point that this could help the college commerce because [students] might be more likely to acquire the permits.”

If passed, such an ordinance would be modeled after one governing parking surrounding Shepherd University campus in Shepherdstown, W.Va. and would require signage and permit placards that would be hung on vehicles’ rearview mirrors.

O’Neill said drafting the ordinance would be no problem, but enforcing it might be complex in some cases.

“We can work it out, but it’s not quite as cut and dry,” O’Neill said. “The question then becomes enforcement. Are we going to require residents to obtain some kind of permit that they have to display in their window?”

McCauley noted the ordinance could be expanded to include residential-only parking in other areas of town, including, for example, around Buckhannon Academy Elementary School or WVU Medicine St. Joseph’s Hospital.

Councilman CJ Rylands asked if the streets in the vicinity of Wesleyan would be known as the college zone.

“That could get pretty complicated,” he said.

O’Neill said zoning wasn’t necessary.

“I don’t know that you would have to do it as a zone,” the city attorney said. “You could just designate certain streets as residential parking only.”

Councilwoman Pam Cuppari made a motion to authorize O’Neill to draft the ordinance, which was seconded by councilman Robbie Skinner before passing unanimously. Council will review the ordinance at a meeting in July.


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