Public hearing could supply final answer to vexing winter parking ban debate

B y Lee Tugas

The Whitehall Village Board has set the date of 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 18 for a public hearing on its new parking ordinance.

But unless village residents speak up that night, a definite answer on relaxing or scrapping the 11 p.m to 7 a.m. ban on overnight winter parking may disappear like snow in spring.

At its Jan. 21 meeting, the board unanimously approved a five-page, single-spaced proposed local law on parking, which will supersede all previous, existing parking ordinances.

The multi-page document contains much that pertains to general parking restrictions, but attention has been focused on winter parking restrictions. The new ordinance only indirectly addresses that problem.

Decision was expected

At its Jan 7 meeting, Mayor Peter Telisky said the board would decide on the 21st whether or not it would keep the existing 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. ban, reduce it to a 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. ban or scrap the wintertime parking ban entirely.

But the board chose not to make a choice on Jan. 21; instead, it approved a draft of a local law that will, next year, authorize the Board of Trustees to set “snowstorm and emergency no-parking regulations” from Nov. 1 to April 1 by “resolution.”

None of the three options are ruled out by the board’s decision. The parking ordinance does grant the Superintendent of Public Works the right to “close streets to vehicular traffic” during a snowstorm emergency.

Recently, both Telisky and Don Williams, superintendent of public works, jointly chose to close the streets to parking for 17 hours during a blizzard. And both men have stated that may be the preferred method in the future for handling snow parking problems.

But there is nothing in the ordinance that says that either way.

Light restrictions for light snow, tight restrictions for heavy snow

Asked to explain what direction the Board of Trustees was tending, Trustee Walt Sanford, co-author of the original 3 to 6 a.m. ban, said simply, “Light winter means light restrictions and big winter means big restrictions.”

By that Sandford explained that he meant the new ordinance, which allows the board to settle winter parking policy by resolution, would let the board fine tune its no-parking hours from winter storm to winter storm from Nov. 1 to April 1.

Snow emergencies likely scenario

Although the parking ordinance sets nothing in stone for next year, the board members and Superintendent Williams informally agreed that for this winter, strict enforcement of the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. regulation, which remains in force, will be relaxed in favor of mandatory snow emergency announcements that forbid street parking during severe storms.

“I’ve talked to Marge Mohn (village trustee), and I see that in recent winters, 50 to 60 days it does not snow,” Williams said. “I’d really like to try snow emergencies,” Williams said.

Williams added that adoption of a snow emergency system would require the village to publicize such emergencies through all local and regional media, including local New York State and Vermont radio stations and all the major Albany television stations.

“It worked for the last snowstorm,” Williams said.

“Our roads are exceptional, compared to Hudson Falls and Fort Edward,” Sanford said, complementing Williams and his highway crews’ recent work.

Old ban stays on books this winter

Even though the board is likely to use “snow emergencies” as an informal parking ban, the old 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. ban remains on the books until the Feb. 18 hearing and beyond.

Telisky invited all village residents to attend and make their wishes known at the Feb. 18 hearing. At that point, the ordinance, modified perhaps by public sentiment, may be approved by the board.

If approved, however, the ordinance has to be mailed and filed with the Department of State.

No board member or village official speculated on how long it would take for the proposed ordinance to be filed, but Trustee Ken Bartholomew said it could be as late as spring.

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