Relaxed parking ban still up in the air in Whitehall

B y Lee Tugas

The Whitehall Village Board made final revisions to its forthcoming local parking law last week, but backed away from adopting its key provision, relaxing the overnight ban on winter parking.

Mayor Pete Telisky proposed relaxing the ban from the current 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. to 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. But for the second time within a month, the board failed to reduce the eight- hour ban to three hours.

Telisky called for a vote on the key provision, with the rest of the law to be presented at a January public hearing, where it would be discussed by the public and then voted on by the board.

Both he and Trustee Walt Sanford voted in favor of relaxing the ban. But Trustees Marge Mohn and Mike LaChapelle voted against.

With two voting yes and two voting no, the decision to immediately relax the ban fell to Trustee Ken Bartholomew, who, with Sandford, originally drafted the new parking law, with its shorter parking prohibition.

“I abstain,” Bartholomew said. “When the whole law shows up, we’ll set the time,” he added, meaning when the ordinance was in its final form, the board would make its final decision on whether to keep the eight hour ban or reduce it to three.

Second time board tables decision

The split vote and Bartholomew’s abstention marked the second time within a month that the board has failed to reduce the length of the overnight winter parking ban. At its November meeting, with Bartholomew absent, no consensus could be reached at all.

At that meeting, Mohn had favored little or no parking regulations so that business development in the village would be encouraged, as the Chamber of Commerce has advocated for nearly a year. In contrast, Telisky had wondered aloud why parking in the 1960s, when regulations were stricter, caused little or no problems. Sandford, author of the relaxed ban, had argued for adoption of the three hour, relaxed parking ban.

Sandford points out inconsistency

At Tuesday night’s meeting, after the vote was taken, Sandford said Mohn was being inconsistent.

“Last month, Marge, you wanted no ban on parking, and tonight you voted to keep it from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.”

“I’m a little bit conflicted,” Mohn said, alluding to the fact that Don Williams, superintendent of public works, had just made an impassioned appeal to keep the ban from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Williams said he was speaking for himself, but his remarks concerned the village highway crews:

“In Granville, in Ticonderoga, in Glens Falls it’s 11 to 7. But we’re going to change it? I think it’s wrong.  You’re going to kill the highway department,” Williams said.

Existing law being enforced

Last winter, more than a dozen property owners complained that the eight-hour ban was suddenly being enforced, after years of non-enforcement. According to village police records, the existing law certainly is being enforced this year. On Sunday, Dec. 8, village police issued 26 parking warnings.

One of those warnings sparked a complaint from Bill and Debbie Carswell of Potter Street. The Carswells complained that they had received a police warning while several other cars, parked in the same way, had not.

Sanford explained to Carswell, “We’ve consolidated 20 years into one user-friendly document. We’re trying to make Whitehall a user-friendly place.”

The Carswells worried that when their son came home for a two-week period, he, too, would get a police warning. Telisky advised the Carswells to call police and ask for a waiver of the existing restrictions for their son. The board also agreed that it was reasonable for Carswell, who heads out early for work, to park on the paved meridian near his house.

Police opinion sought

Carswell was not the only one who planned to speak to the police. Before making his final decision on relaxing the ban from eight to three hours, Bartholomew said that he, too, would be contacting village police about the wisdom of relaxing the ban.

“I’ll probably go with you,” Bartholomew said, meaning he would probably vote in favor the shorter parking ban. “But before I do, I’m going to talk…I mean, I’m going to email police.”

At that point, Sanford reminded board members that a relaxed ban was needed for those village residents who work at night or go to work early in the morning.

“People work shift work,” Sanford said, stressing again that village residents should attend the public hearing on the final parking ordinance to let the board know their views on whether or not the village should keep its eight hour ban or cut it to three hours.

Telisky said next month, in January, the board would revert to its regular schedule of meetings, 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan 7 and Tuesday Jan. 21. The board agreed that the full parking ordinance, and a decision on relaxing the ban on overnight winter parking, would then no doubt be made.

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