With six cars and soon to be six drivers, a Center Grove area resident needs to park on the street despite a county rule banning overnight parking on weekdays.
Patrick Acree might be able to cram all six cars in his driveway in Windsong Estates, but getting them out would be a daily hassle. Since his daughter found a warning ticket on her windshield two months ago, he’s been keeping his cars off the street at night to obey the ordinance he didn’t know existed.
Now Acree is working with county officials including commissioners, the sheriff and the highway department director to find ways to tweak the rules to be more accommodating for residents while still working to keep streets open for emergency vehicles and snowplows.
According to the local rule first approved in 1989, people aren’t allowed to park on any county street between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. Mondays through Thursdays.
In May, sheriff’s deputies wrote 54 warning tickets after a resident in Wakefield West subdivision called to complain about cars parked on the street.
While Acree and other residents have asked the county to repeal the rarely used rule, county officials want to keep it in order to be able to write tickets or tow vehicles if they’re choking the road so fire trucks, ambulances or snowplows can’t get down the block.
“Unless there is an emergency, there is no issue,” commissioner Brian Baird said.
Access into neighborhoods is a legitimate concern, White River Township Fire Chief Jeremy Pell and Sheriff Doug Cox said.
Fire truck drivers have to weave down neighborhood streets to avoid vehicles as they’re sporadically parked on either side, which causes the driver to slow down on the way to a fire or medical call.
If two cars are parked on opposite sides of the street from each other, that pinches the roadway and makes drivers slow down even more. In rare instances, drivers couldn’t squeeze down the road and had to back out and find another route, Pell said. Parked cars also block a driver’s vision, so he has to be extra careful to watch out for children who might dart into the street.
“It’s a frequent challenge. It’s not often that we can’t get through, but it’s almost like doing a slalom course when you’re driving through a neighborhood and you’re driving around cars on both sides,” Pell said.
Sheriff’s deputies also occasionally get into high-speed chases when following a suspect, and more vehicles on the road make it dangerous for deputies and the driver they’re chasing, Cox said.
The ordinance won’t help in the moment of an emergency, since firefighters or police officers wouldn’t be able to tow a vehicle immediately, Acree said. The rules currently allow police to tow or write a ticket after the fact but also give an officer some power to ask a homeowner to move a car if it could present a problem in an emergency, Cox said.
Sheriff’s deputies are only issuing tickets if they get complaints about cars on the street, Cox said. Deputies aren’t driving around neighborhoods looking for cars parked on the street in order to write tickets, he said.
A committee including commissioner Tom Kite, highway director Luke Mastin, the sheriff, Acree and possible other emergency staff and residents will meet to discuss ideas on how to revamp the rules.
County officials are already nixing a few ideas, such as limiting parking to only one side of the street. Although that idea would prevent parked cars from squeezing the roadway, county staff would need to go through each subdivision, determine which side to allow parking on and then put up no parking signs on the opposite side, which would be time-consuming and costly, Mastin said.
Eliminating the ordinance is also not likely, because officers need a way to compel someone to move a vehicle if it’s a problem, whether that’s asking politely, writing a ticket or calling a tow truck, Cox said.
Parked cars can be an additional hazard for emergency responders, but Pell said he understands that large families need to have somewhere to park. Newer neighborhoods in White River Township seem to have smaller lots and shorter driveways, which forces more cars onto the street, he said. Since many subdivisions developed in the late 1990s and 2000s, couples that had yet to start families or had small children now have teenagers or college-aged kids that are driving, Pell said.
“It’s a balance of just the community being able to do what they need to be able to do and us to be able to respond safely. We’re not inherently against people parking on the street, and we want to make sure they maintain a width where we can safely respond,” Pell said.
Acree researched other counties and said he couldn’t find another county that has parking restrictions in unincorporated areas. But most other counties don’t have large neighborhoods in unincorporated areas, such as the Center Grove area, like Johnson County, Cox said.
“It’s going to be one of those things it’s danged if we do and danged if we don’t,” Cox said. “We would like to have the public’s input.”