Mayor apologizes to residents
by Joshua Maloni
Patrons driving to Artpark Tuesday for the Styx concert may have noticed more cars parked off South Fourth Street. Vehicles were on residential lawns - parked both parallel and perpendicular - on the road and in driveways. Some homes had more than a half-dozen parked on site.
If this appeared in contrast to previous Village of Lewiston Board rulings, it was - and it wasn't.
Village of Lewiston trustees expressed regret Monday for implementing what they called an unclear policy of where cars can park, and how many can be parked, on concert nights.
Consequently, as long as residents don't charge others to park on their property or on village right-of-way, the board said it wouldn't penalize those creating pop-up lots on an Artpark event night.
"I want to apologize as your mayor, and this board would like to apologize, if there's been any misunderstandings," Mayor Terry Collesano said. "There's been a lot of confusion."
Resident Tasia Fitzpatrick of Niagara Street (corner of Seneca Street) said she and her husband, Paul, regularly welcome friends and family from out of town on concert nights. Fitzpatrick said her guests patronize village businesses before settling into a spot on her property.
She said village communication on parking laws was inconsistent and unclear.
"The last three weeks have brought great turmoil, misunderstanding, uncertainty, confusion and embarrassment as we have received letters, visits from the police (and) letters from the zoning code enforcer as it relates to parking on our property and Seneca Street," Fitzpatrick said.
"We never imagined that each week we would receive a new and different letter (with a different set of rules)," she added.
"It has been confusing," Collesano said. "We were letting you people do as you please for so long. We then realized after we got some complaints, dug into the laws, and we found that it was illegal to park (as you please) on the right-of-way, first of all. If you're going to park on the right-of-way, there was certain limitations as to what you could do. You have to park parallel with the traffic, 12 inches off the edge of the pavement, so it would be on the grass.
"There was a misunderstanding with our code enforcer and others. When we said, 'On the grass,' they thought then you could park diagonally or perpendicular on the lawn. That's not the case.
"As far as parking on the lawn, then it was found in the law that, unless you have a parking lot in a residential area, you can't park on lawns, either (a total of three cars are allowed per 5,000 square feet)."
Trustees opted to make parking changes during their meeting Monday, July 21. Village officials then scrambled to notify North Fourth Street-area residents ahead of the Artpark concert the following night.
This was the first letter.
"What I think happened is that it came up too quickly," Village of Lewiston Attorney Ed Jesella said.
"The meeting was on a Monday. Tuesday was Artpark. So I would guess that that day was a pretty rushed day; people trying to figure out what was going on and who was doing what, and how many cars you're supposed to have," he said. "And that was a bad day."
"It probably happened the next week (the second letter), because things were changing," Jesella said. "It was all in flux, because there were a lot of complaints. It was obvious people were taking advantage. ... Charging for it. It got so bad, they were charging (for parking); people were selling food; people were standing out in the streets. It was a problem - not only for the residents, but for the police department and everybody else."
Jesella told Fitzpatrick, "If you had been here last meeting, this (boardroom) was filled with people that didn't want the parking there. Everybody was sitting here raising their hand, (saying,) 'I'm sick and tired of this. This is what's happening at my house. People are peeing on my lawn. Women are peeing on my lawn. Men are peeing on my lawn.' And all this is going on and on because they're going to their cars that are parked in the wrong place.
"So we had all kinds of problems that night."
Following that meeting, Fitzpatrick said village officials were setting parameters "on the fly."
"So one guy is saying this; the letter doesn't say that; we're running to the mayor; we're calling here. Nobody's saying the same thing," she said.
North Seventh Street resident Catherine Federspiel said, "I have to tell you, I'm not happy about the letters and how they were handled." She suggested it was inappropriate to use Lewiston police officers as deliverymen, as it causes recipients to feel undue stress and concern. "It should've been handled a lot differently."
Jesella said he would work with the board this winter in analyzing the parking situation, and that trustees would come up with a straightforward policy for the 2015 summer entertainment season.
"They tried to do the best they can, looking forward, honestly, to next season, so that everybody gets on the same track; everybody understands what they can do, and can't do," Jesella said.
"It's just been a problem," he added.
"We're not trying to stop you from having your friends or your neighbors come over, and we're going to work this thing out," Jesella said.
Collesano said, "We are a small community. We're a family. We've got to get along with one another. I know there's disagreements, but there's no reason why we can't iron this out where everyone is happy with what comes out of it."