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Parking restrictions have been eased

February 20, 2003|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

Walking through Winter Street in Hagerstown's West End on Wednesday was a bit like being in a stadium: There was plenty of outside seating.

Except the chairs weren't for sitting.

As in other spots across the city, chairs, stools and other types of furniture were being used to reserve parking spaces that had been carved out of the snow.

Angela Shoop, 26, who lives on Winter Street, was about to dig out her car. Once she accomplished that, she intended to make sure nobody took her parking spot.


"Oh, definitely," she said about sticking a chair in the empty spot. "Lack of parking is definitely a problem."

Her neighbor had placed a chair in the spot where her car would go, and the empty spaces along her street and neighboring streets were dotted with such space-savers.

Technically, that's illegal, said Hagerstown Police Sgt. Fred Wolford. But another neighbor said the practice was understandable.

"You spend a couple hours digging out your car, you expect to have a spot when you come back, especially if it's in front of your house," said Ken Hull, 30, who lives around the corner on Forest Street.

Hull didn't have to worry about that yet, however. He said he wasn't planning to dig out his Mercury Cougar until after some of the snow melts.

Wolford said public parking is supposed to be on a first-come, first-served situation.

"It is illegal to block (spaces) and save them," he said.

But the 2 feet of snow that fell on Hagerstown between late Saturday and Monday prompted city code enforcers and police to ease up on a few rules this week.

When it comes to saving parking spaces in light of the heavy snowfall, Wolford said, "That's one of those (things) that if someone makes a complaint, we'll look into it. ... Typically, we're not going to do anything unless it presents a problem.

"The only thing we would ask is that people use common decency."

By the end of the week, however, residents should not expect much more leniency, officials said.

In addition to residential parking, there were a few other areas in which city officials said the letter of the law would not be strictly followed.

  • Sidewalks. There will be an amnesty period until Friday for removing snow from sidewalks within Hagerstown's city limits. Under a city ordinance, snow must be cleared from downtown sidewalks within four hours after snow stops falling, and within 10 hours from sidewalks not in the downtown area.

    Instead of issuing citations, city officials will give residents and businesses warnings, but regular enforcement was to resume after Friday.

  • Snow in the street. Those shoveling snow are not supposed to put it in the street, Public Works Manager Eric Deike said. He said the city realizes that's not easy now. "There's nowhere to put it," so the city won't be hard on violators.

  • Metered parking. Vehicles are supposed to be parked at meters for only two hours and vehicle owners are not supposed to feed the meters continually. City police are going easy on those who park at meters.

    "With all that snow down there, most of the places where the meters are, you can't park there anyway," said Lt. William C. Wright III, who oversees meter enforcement. "My parking enforcement people aren't going to be doing anything with that."

Wright said if a car does need to be moved, police would first try to contact the owner or driver. The car would be towed only as a last resort.

Sgt. Mark Renner said the earliest that parking rules would be enforced would be the end of this week, and possibly early next week.

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