Council discusses draft of ordinance that would restrict parking around Wesleyan

BUCKHANNON — Buckhannon’s city attorney on Thursday released a list of street segments surrounding West Virginia Wesleyan College that may eventually be designated residential-only parking zones.

In response to complaints from residents who live in close vicinity to the college, the city’s Consolidated Public Works Board recommended city council pass a law restricting curbside parking on nine specific street sections.

The ordinance — which is currently in draft phase — would allow only residents who live on certain street segments to park on those streets. 

Proponents of the law say its purpose is to ensure residents are able to park in front of their own houses, which has become increasingly difficult, one affected resident, Tim Reese, told council Thursday night.

At Thursday’s meeting, city attorney Tom O’Neill briefed council on a draft of Ordinance No. 427. O’Neill said the following sections will be residential-only parking: College Avenue between South Florida Street and Meade Street; Barbour Street between South Florida Street and Meade Street; Fayette Street between South Florida Street and Meade Street; Pocahontas Street between South Florida Street and Meade Street; and Camden Avenue between South Florida Street and Meade Street.

The following additional areas will also be off-limits to anyone but residents during the daytime Monday through Friday: Meade Street between College Avenue and Latham Street; Baxter Street between College Avenue and Latham Street; Sedgwick Street between College Avenue and Latham Street; and East Main Street between College Avenue and Florida Street.

“Those are the nine street segments identified in the most immediate vicinity of the main part of campus,” O’Neill explained. “The ordinance provides for each dwelling, so that means either a single family detached unit of a multi-family structure or an apartment in an apartment building. The ordinance also provides for each dwelling to receive two residential permits at no charge from the city that they can display on the dashboard of the vehicle in order to park in those areas.”

Signage demarcating residential-only parking zones will be erected as part of the enforcement aspect of the policy, O’Neill said. Council also discussed potentially only enforcing the limit from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The ordinance states the penalty for a non-resident parking in a designated residential-only zone for more than 30 minutes is a $25 fine.

Councilman Robbie Skinner asked O’Neill if offenders will receive warnings prior to being ticketed, a practice in effect in Buckhannon’s downtown commercial district.

“Does that same warning system apply as downtown?” Skinner asked.

O’Neill said probably not, since that would require keeping tabs on how many warnings offenders rack up.

“This doesn’t affect off-street parking at all,” O’Neill said. “It will only be for curbside parking on the public street, so if you can pack four cars into your driveway behind your house that you can get to through an alley and it’s on your own property, you don’t need any permit for that.”

Mayor David McCauley said the city is not banning Wesleyan students or employees from parking on College Avenue from Meade Street northward to the Buckhannon River or on Meade Street between College and Camden avenues.

Council voted to direct O’Neill to draft the ordinance, after hearing a recommendation from the city’s Consolidated Public Works Board meeting at its June 21 meeting.

Councilman David Thomas, councilman CJ Rylands and Skinner raised a few questions about the consequences of implementing the ordinance.

“Part of my hesitation is, David, I understand the residents have a feeling, but there’s a lot fewer students than there were five or x amount of years ago,” Thomas said.

Rylands said the rule wouldn’t have any teeth unless it’s effectively enforced.

“This is also something to consider about enforcement. We can make all the rules we want, but [they need to be enforced],” Rylands said.

O’Neill said new signage would strengthen enforcement efforts.

Skinner asked about city residents who live on different streets parking on the street segments surrounding the college.

“I have one comment or concern, if you will, about fellow city residents — those folks who would be like myself, any of us who live in the city limits, we all pay the same fee structure to live in the city limits as the residents on those streets,” Skinner said. “What about if a resident that lived on Pocahontas Street south or West Lincoln Street came over and found a place to park to go to Dough Re Mi or to go to visit someone’s house and they can’t park there — it’s that particular zone only parking — but they are a city resident as well? That question was posed to me.”

O’Neill said he could add an addendum to the ordinance stating that any full-time city resident with a utility account would be exempt, but no decision on that question was made.

Reese — one of the affected residents present at Thursday’s meeting — said the situation has worsened over the years.

“It’s ridiculous. It’s hideous,” he said. “People don’t move their car for five, six days at a time. You can’t even mow the end of your yard.”

McCauley said the college administration isn’t opposed to the policy because it would encourage students to purchase parking permits.

“I imagine that one of the reasons that the college administration would not be averse to this is, it’s going to make the college kids rethink [buying a parking pass],” he said. “There are plenty of parking spots, but they’re going to have to walk the extra block or two to park their car to get to their dorm … it’s not going to kill our 18- to 21-year-olds to walk an extra hundred yards. I think it’s worth a shot.”

O’Neill said he would make several revisions to the ordinance, with the hope of being able to send it out for council members’ perusal this week. The ordinance will likely be up for first reading at council’s July 19 meeting.

“If we don’t like it after we hash it out some more on the 19th, we can table it,” McCauley said.

Rylands said it’s essential that affected residents and businesses — such as Dough Re Mi — have an opportunity to be apprised of the policy.

City recorder Colin Reger suggested a full-throttle publicity campaign prior to the ordinance’s implementation.

“Once we settle on how we’re going to do this, there might need to be a full out public education campaign involving the students and the residents who live in the area,” he said. “Maybe Callie (Cronin Sams, information coordinator and grant writer) could come up with a really nice way to communicate this.”

“We’re not setting up guard towers,” McCauley joked.

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