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Students with wheels a pesky lot

In the category of understatement of the year, our first nominee is Christine DiGaudio, public information coordinator for the Clarence School District, for this comment: "Parking has become a bit of a headache in the past several years."

Just a bit.

Drive past Clarence High School on Main Street (Route 5) any time class is in session and you'll see what she means. It can barely accommodate the vehicles that are driving on it. The road was not designed for parking, but that hasn't stopped students from leaving their vehicles on the road's shoulder.

Parking is not explicitly banned there -- not yet anyway. So they park, because the school lot is full, and parking is prohibited on adjacent Gunnville Road.

This happens when you combine an affluent, growing population with a school that was not built for student parking. And it's not just Clarence.

In Lancaster, town officials are contemplating adding yet another street to the roster of those where parking will be restricted to keep students and their vehicles away. Most of the streets within walking distance of the high school already limit parking to two hours between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Friday during the school year. So the students who cannot get into the school lot keep driving farther until they can find a street where parking is not restricted -- until residents inevitably complain to the town.

"The problem is, once I sign that street, they're going to probably move to the next street. I don't know how far out I have to get," Supervisor Robert Giza said last week.

The residents of Shadyside Lane say the town has to at least get to their street. Dave Kerchoff last week presented the Town Board a petition signed by 27 of the 30 residents of the street asking for relief from student parking.

Asked why, he ticked off the following complaints: "They'll block mailboxes and make it difficult to get out of driveways. They'll leave garbage on the street or on lawns. They'll drag race down the street [after school] at 2:30. They're very loud. Someone said they've parked in front of a fire hydrant before. They park on both sides of the street sometimes, so it makes it difficult to get in and out."

Other than that, everything's fine.

Kerchoff said the obvious solution is for the school to figure out a way to provide more parking for students.

The districts respond that they don't have the room. Clarence just added 18 new classrooms and more parking, and it wasn't enough. And by the way, school officials might point out, they spend thousands of your tax dollars every year to bus every kid virtually from their front door to school and back every day.

The compromise solution that both Clarence and Lancaster employ is to charge students for the right to have a designated spot on campus and to extend the offer to seniors only. This school year, Clarence cut off the permits after issuing 300 to a senior class of 452.

That means if you're a junior with a license and wheels, you either take the bus or find a place to park close to school. Increasingly, students choose the latter.

Giza said if things go as they normally do in these situations, Shadyside Lane soon will be off limits to student drivers. And Clarence has asked the State Police to find a solution to the parked cars on Main Street.

Both measures will move the problem somewhere else, not solve it. And that communal headache in both towns is probably going to get a bit worse.

e-mail: bandriatch@buffnews.com

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