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Proposed parking ordinance hits dead end
October 28, 2016 Jerry Purvis   

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After a public hearing that lasted almost an hour, members of the Gering City Council put the brakes on a proposed ordinance that would change how vehicles may be parked in city cul-de-sacs.

Under the current ordinance, vehicles must be parked diagonally in city cul-de-sacs. The proposed change would require vehicles to parallel park, no more than 12 inches from the curb, just like city streets. That would allow more space for emergency vehicles to turn around.

City Engineer Paul Snarr recommended repeal of the original ordinance from 2007 before adopting the new one.

“Cul-de-sacs are dedicated right-of-way to the city and are intended to assure all vehicles have proper turning movements,” Snarr said. “Because there’s additional line of sight with parallel parking, it’s safer when people back out of their driveways. Cul-de-sacs aren’t meant to be a parking lot.”

Gering resident Tiffany Wasserberger spoke in favor of the new ordinance. “I was the concerned citizen who contact the city,” she said. “We’ve had a situation with the angle of our cul-de-sac where we are unable to directly enter or exit our driveway. It’s a daily occurrence that has become stressful and dangerous. When we have visitors, they sometimes have to drive over our curb because the diagonal parking by our neighbors blocks access to our driveway.”

Wasserberger said she’s also concerned about collisions with the neighbor’s vehicles because with diagonal parking, there’s less than a foot of clearance. With earlier nights in the winter, along with ice and snow, the problem could worsen.

“This problem isn’t tied to people, but to property,” she said. “Whoever lives there, that issue is going to be there.”

Gering Police Chief George Holthus said the existing ordinance is confusing. It allows for diagonal parking in cul-de-sacs, but also states a car can’t be parked within five feet of someone else’s driveway. With the angle of cul-de-sacs, oversize vehicles are often in the line of traffic.

Council member Larry Gibbs asked whether the problem could be addressed by amending the existing ordinance to specify the rear of the vehicle would have to be at least five feet from a neighbor’s driveway.

“I empathize with the problem, but throwing the whole ordinance out will affect a lot of people in the community,” Gibbs said. “We have two neighbors who can’t seem to get along. I think there’s another solution that won’t punish everyone else.”

Fellow council member Julie Morrison was also concerned. With about 36 cul-de-sacs throughout the city, many residents have two or more vehicles “If you start lining them up around the curb, where’s everyone going to park?” she asked.

Snarr said the city’s cul-de-sacs meet all state design standards. However, Gering is the first city he’s seen that allows for diagonal or perpendicular parking. Some cities don’t allow parking in cul-de-sacs at all.

“Throwing the current ordinance out and starting all over is a mistake,” Morrison said. “There will be people double parked in the cul-de-sacs to get their cars in and out. It would be worse when they have visitors.”

Several residents who live on cul-de-sacs also spoke against the proposal, saying they had no parking problems. Wasserberger said she tried asking her neighbor not to park in her driveway, but the situation only got worse. So she contacted the police because she was unsure of what to do because her vehicle was blocked into her driveway.

Gering resident Mike Brunner, who also lives on a cul-de-sac, also opposed changing the ordinance. “One of the downsides to a cul-de-sac is you don’t have much street area, so you have to take the best advantage of what you have, especially when you own more than one vehicle,” he said.

Wasserberger’s neighbor, Roger Satur, told council members he’s tried to remedy the parking issue and tries to leave ample room for her to back in and out of her driveway.

“We’re doing what we can to be neighborly, but when I try to talk with them, I think they’re ignoring me,” Satur said. “I really don’t know where I can go from here because about the only way we can communicate is through the police.”

Council member Don Christensen offered a simple solution – don’t park in your neighbor’s driveway. “Maybe we should look at the existing ordinance and put some teeth into it so the police department can enforce it,” he said. “I’m not in favor of eliminating parking on cul-de-sacs.”

After about 58 minutes of discussion, Mayor Tony Kaufman asked for a motion to change the existing ordinance. After a long silence, he declared the proposal dead for lack of a motion.

However, council members seemed willing to consider other ways the problem can be addressed.
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