If you found a slip of paper on your car this week notifying you of a parking violation, you weren’t alone.
Dozens of residents were caught off guard this week when the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office wrote 54 parking warnings for vehicles parked in some Center Grove area subdivisions that were in violation of a longtime county rule.
The dastardly deed that was committed? Not parking in front of someone’s driveway, blocking a fire hydrant or even parking the wrong direction on the street. Instead, they simply parked their vehicles on a county-owned street, which is not allowed from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. Monday through Thursday.
If you weren’t aware of the rule, don’t worry; neither were most people.
Residents lit up the phone lines at the sheriff’s office the next day with questions and complaints about where the parking rules came from. Neighbors were abuzz on Facebook, wondering how they got a warning for doing something that seemed so innocuous.
The parking rules in unincorporated parts of the county, which has a population of about 42,000 people in White River Township alone, have been in place for almost 25 years, approved by the commissioners in 1989.
The ordinance allows police to write a warning, issue a ticket that could reach up to $2,500, or even tow the offending vehicle if it is parked on a county road during the prohibited hours. Neither Greenwood or Franklin has a similar rule.
The county’s ordinance is designed to allow school buses, emergency vehicles and traffic to be able to safely drive through neighborhoods, Sheriff Doug Cox said.
Police received a couple of complaints this week about people parking on the street in the Wakefield West subdivision, located near Morgantown and Smith Valley roads. The shift commander decided to have deputies give warnings to anyone violating the ordinance in those neighborhoods. But there are no plans to visit every neighborhood and write warnings or tickets for violations, Cox said.
He said he understands the problems some will have fitting all of their family’s vehicles into a garage and driveway, but the commissioners are in charge of making these rules.
“We just enforce the law,” Cox said.
The ordinance has left some residents wondering why the rules are in place and debating calling the commissioners to voice their concern. Some residents are even considering parking their cars on their lawns to avoid a ticket.
Most people see some value in the parking ordinance for extreme violations. A few years ago a home in the Wakefield subdivision had about six cars sitting in a driveway and a few parked along the street. Neighbors used to joke that the homeowner must have been a used car salesman.
Well, that turned out to be true, and the man was bringing his work home with him, said Eric Radecki, a resident in the subdivision for about the past seven years.
The ordinance would be beneficial for those extreme cases, he said.
Radecki never knew about the rule until his high-school aged son came back inside one morning after finding a parking warning on his windshield. His son had parked his car on the street in front of the family’s home, just like he had countless other nights.
The rules could serve a purpose if it keeps congestion off the streets or is designed to protect children who might run out from behind a parked car. But the timing seems odd, Radecki said.
“But it seems like what is really playing out is an inconvenience for people and they have pulled it out of nowhere,” Radecki said.
The warnings issued by police weren’t limited to residents in the Wakefield West subdivision, as residents in nearby Windsong Estates also woke up with surprise warnings on their cars.
Patrick Acree has lived in his Windsong Estates home for about 25 years — about the same length of time the ordinance has been on the books — but has never heard of anyone getting a ticket for parking on the street. His daughter was heading to work when she noticed a warning on her car’s windshield.
“If there is a good reason for what they’re doing, then I’d like to hear it,” Acree said. “I can’t imagine that regulating people parking along the street in a residential neighborhood is not overreaching by the government. It’s not been a problem since I’ve lived here for 25 years.”
Vinessa Morford did not get a warning or ticket for parking on the street but worries how her family will comply with the rules in a few years. The family has two children who are not yet driving age. Once they get their licenses, Morford is not sure where those cars will fit. A boat has to sit inside the garage, limiting parking space to the driveway.
“I’ve seen a lot of things on Facebook about these warnings, and it seemed to come out of the blue, catching people off guard,” Morford said. “People have not been too happy about it. I think it’s ridiculous, and it violates our rights.”
Acree has to figure out how to park five cars each night without having any of them on the street. The family keeps their minivan in the garage, while three cars can fit on the driveway. But what about his daughter’s car, the one that got the police warning?
“It doesn’t look good, but we’ve pulled my daughter’s car on the grass,” Acree said. “I don’t like doing it because I live in a relatively nice home. But if all four wheels are off the concrete we should be OK.”
The county doesn’t have rules against parking in the yard, but it could violate the homeowner association’s rules, Cox said.