Monday, July 28, 2014

Congested streets prompt parking ban proposal near OU

By DOUG CARDER, Herald Senior Writer | 1/31/2014

After fielding a rash of complaints and issuing about two dozen tickets since Thanksgiving, Ottawa city and police officials are looking to curb parking problems in some neighborhoods around the Ottawa University campus.

For several years, the Ottawa Police Department has received complaint calls from residents about parking in neighborhoods near and adjacent to the campus, 1001 S. Cedar St., Ottawa, Dennis Butler, Ottawa police chief, said.

After fielding a rash of complaints and issuing about two dozen tickets since Thanksgiving, Ottawa city and police officials are looking to curb parking problems in some neighborhoods around the Ottawa University campus.

For several years, the Ottawa Police Department has received complaint calls from residents about parking in neighborhoods near and adjacent to the campus, 1001 S. Cedar St., Ottawa, Dennis Butler, Ottawa police chief, said.

Butler told city commissioners at a recent study session that the department has fielded calls about cars blocking driveways, sidewalks and fire hydrants in those neighborhoods at a much higher rate than other areas of the city. To alleviate the parking problems and ease the congestion in the neighborhoods — as well as make it more straightforward for police to enforce — the city commission will consider adopting an ordinance that restricts parking along certain stretches of South Oak, South Poplar and South Mulberry streets, between Eighth and Ninth streets, when it meets 7 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall, 101 S. Hickory St., Ottawa. Ninth Street defines the northern boundary of the OU campus.

The ordinance would establish the following no parking zones:

• West side of South Oak Street from Ninth Street to 30 feet north of the stop sign.

• East side of South Poplar Street from Ninth Street to 15 feet north of the fire hydrant.

• West side of South Poplar Street from Ninth Street to 30 feet north of the stop sign.

• East side of South Mulberry Street from Ninth Street to 15 feet north of the fire hydrant.

• North side of Ninth Street, from Mulberry Street to 30 feet east of the stop sign. 

It is illegal to park within 30 feet of a stop sign and 15 feet of a fire hydrant anywhere in the city, Butler said. Violations have been higher in the neighborhoods around the campus than other areas of the community, he said.

Police patrol officers stepped up enforcement of parking regulations in these neighborhoods after Thanksgiving until OU’s winter break, and then resumed the concentrated enforcement when classes resumed Jan. 13, Butler said. During that span, police wrote 20 to 25 parking tickets, Butler estimated.

“A majority of those tickets were for parking too close to stop signs and fire hydrants,” Butler said.

A parking ticket carries a $25 fine.

Linda Reed, city commissioner, said she thought the $25 fine was large enough to get people’s attention. Butler and other city commissioners agreed.

If the city commission approves the ordinance, no parking signs would be posted and the police department would notify university staff and ask that the information be shared with students, Butler said. 

Ottawa University officials have worked with the city to try to address parking concerns on neighboring streets, city officials said.

The university added a 41-space parking lot on its campus, just south of Ninth Street, before the start of the 2012-2013 school year. Butler told city commissioners the additional lot had helped some, but parking problems persist in the adjoining neighborhoods.

In August 2012, the city commission passed an ordinance to prohibit parking on the west side of South Cedar Street — 55 feet north and 55 feet south of the intersection of South Cedar and 10th streets in front of the OU campus — to give motorists trying to turn from 10th Street onto South Cedar Street a more clear view of oncoming traffic.

The new ordinance to restrict parking near stop signs and fire hydrants at Ninth and South Oak, South Poplar and South Mulberry streets is designed to make it clear to all motorists what the boundaries are for safe and legal parking in those neighborhoods, Butler said.

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