Jan 242013


By Wesley Brown

Thursday, January 24, 2013

A “four-brick parking trick” is eroding student-housing communities surrounding East Carolina University, including the Tar River and College View historic districts, local residents said at a Wednesday night meeting.

To avoid $25 parking tickets, university students equipped with four-wheel-drive jeeps are propping up their vehicles on four bricks, one for each tire.

Technically, the cement lifts qualify as an “unimproved surface,” under the city of Greenville’s parking code, and are enabling drivers to elude citations.

“Why have a law with no teeth to it?” Christie McLawhorn, president of the Colonial Heights Neighborhood Association, asked during a town-hall meeting hosted by District 3 City Councilwoman Marion Blackburn.

McLawhorn said that every Friday afternoon — shortly after 5 p.m., when code enforcement breaks for the weekend — the makeshift stilts go up on the same vehicles and in the same yards off First, Fifth and 10th streets.

“They have learned the rules,” McLawhorn said of students. “They have learned the code enforcement schedule. They know the loopholes and how to get around city parking codes.”

Lt. Richard Allsbrook, commander of Greenville Code Enforcement, said the move is completely legal.

To control the rear and front yard parking problems and catch other violations — like parking without a permit in restricted zones or facing against the flow of traffic — his staff, including one full-time parking officer, is mixing up schedules and working weekends, Allsbrook said.

Last Saturday, Corey Barrett, a former parking officer of 18 years in Greenville who now works code enforcement, issued 12 violations. Allsbrook said the city should have a second parking officer hired by next week.

“We issue citations, but we also have a plan for on-street parking,” said Barrett, who Allsbrook dubbed his “utility man.” “If you have three outstanding tickets that are unpaid after 90 days, we can immobilize a car with a wheel clamp, or as some call it, a parking boot.”

Barrett suggested expanding the policy to unimproved surface violations to members of the University Revitalization Work Group present at the meeting.

The committee, appointed by the City Council to revitalize the Tar River University neighborhood, is leading a comprehensive review on parking this month and will discuss policy change at its next meeting on Feb. 19, particularly for unimproved surfaces.

The group identified as many as 20 properties in an eight-block walkthrough of the neighborhood last week, where the residents converted all or most of a home’s yard into a parking lot, many of which remain in violation of city code.

The 50 residents in attendance at the meeting liked the idea of weekend parking sweeps, or the city developing a residential parking manual.

“We have never really addressed parking as we need to,” said Inez Fridley, a former city council representative who lives off Fifth Street.

Fridley took some responsibility for the oversight, but said that the city is large enough and the problem bad enough to no longer ignore it.

“Piecemeal and just relying on code enforcement is not going to cut it any longer,” Fridley said.

Contact Wesley Brown at 252-329-9579 or wbrown@reflector.com. Follow him on Twitter @CityWatchdog.

via The Daily Reflector.


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