Buckhannon hears parking concerns

BUCKHANNON — Pressure has been increased on Buckhannon City Council to take action concerning parking complaints from several community members who live near West Virginia Wesleyan College’s campus.

At the end of June, council was addressed by residents, who stated parking in front of their homes is nearly impossible when school is in session. Residents claim the problem stems from WVWC students who stay parked for long periods of time causing an inconvenience to several neighborhoods.

To rectify residential concerns, council began drafting an ordinance, which would prohibit non-residential parking between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays in the Residential-Only Park Zone, including a number of streets near the college campus. The current draft ordinance would also issue each “dwelling” – defined as a single-family detached residence, a discrete unit of a multi-family residence or an apartment within a structure subdivided for occupancy by multiple individuals or families — with two residential parking permits for off-street parking.

However, council decided to table the ordinance, allowing WVWC’s administration to observe student parking for the fall semester.

During Thursday’s meeting, Dr. Tim Reese and several other residents approached council reiterating that the parking woes are still ongoing.

“We are here asking council to mitigate our neighborhood problem of being burdened by college students and in another case (Buckhannon)-Academy Elementary School (BAES) employees consuming our on-street parking,” Reese told council.

Prior to Thursday’s meeting, council was under the impression that WVWC students and employees were the only cause for limited on-street parking; however, Reese advised that BAES’ employees are also using parking spaces, blocking driveways and obstructing views for exiting driveways.

“We have 22 signed petitions from full-time residents plus one landlord representing four residential units, to a total of 26 resident petitions,” Reese said. “Again, the majority of the property owners are full-time residents. I stopped seeking petitions when it became clear that the aforementioned neighborhood residents were in favor of an ordinance to remedy this situation.”

Reese said the consumption of parking by BAES employees and parents and WVWC students weakens the neighborhoods by “impairing our ability to move materials for housekeeping and maintenance, hindering our efforts at landscaping by ourselves or contractors, prohibits the city streets sweeper from removing leaf debris …” among others.

City attorney Tom O’Neill advised that the current draft ordinance is up consideration whenever the council decides to take action.

“I think that we have had a number of discussions on the substance of the ordinance, and I think there’s some changes that have been made due to feedback and there were some initiatives and agreements that there was going to be some attempts by the college folks to mitigate this problem on their own,” said O’Neill. “We’re three or four weeks into the semester and I don’t know if those attempts have been given an adequate time to set yet.”

Should the council decide to implement an ordinance by Jan. 1, 2019, O’Neill said the city has until the second meeting in November to pass an ordinance on second reading in order for it to take effect the beginning of the new year.

“The question is whether or not the outside efforts to try to remedy this problem have caught on yet,” he said.

Mayor David McCauley said council will bring the ordinance back to the table as a draft at the next meeting with the anticipation of taking action in October.

“We will more than tweak, but less than gut the current ordinance,” he said.

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