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Will limiting private parking by New Era Field address neighbors' complaints?

The Orchard Park Town Board has put the brakes on any new private parking facilities springing up near New Era Field.

Board members unanimously approved Wednesday a local law that places a moratorium on the expansion of parking facilities within a mile of the Buffalo Bills stadium, formerly known as Ralph Wilson Stadium.

For decades, some homeowners around the stadium have made a small fortune selling parking spots in their driveways and front yards to Bills fans.

Some charge fans $10 to $25 per car to park on their properties on game days.

Now, the "satellite parking lots" that already exist will not be affected by the new local law.

That fact did not sit well with Debbie May of Big Tree Road, who was one of four people who spoke in favor of the moratorium at a public hearing Wednesday evening.

While May approved of the moratorium, she was skeptical that just stopping the proliferation of parking lots would solve the problems experienced by her and her neighbors.

"We bought our house knowing the stadium was there, but never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined the way people act. People come and knock on my door and want to use the bathroom. If I say no, they go in my backyard," May said.

She attempted to question the Town Board about how it was going to enforce the moratorium.

"How are you going to be able to control who parked the cars last year and who is going to park cars this year?" May said. "I don't know that you're going to be able to enforce this because I don't know that you know who is (providing) parking (to) people now."

The public hearing Wednesday was not intended to set new rules for parking lots that already exist in the town, but to stop new ones from popping up, Town Attorney John Bailey clarified.

"The moratorium is for a year. Nobody can expand their lots around the stadium for the coming year. And, in that time, the Town Board is going to study the problem and issue new regulations," Bailey said.

Under the newly approved law, homeowners and owners of other private parking lots would not be allowed to increase their footprint or the number of cars they park, or create parking lots at sites where they have not existed before.

The moratorium was spurred by complaints from residents that more of these lots have been popping up in residential areas.

"Our intention would be to respect everybody's rights, business or private property," Councilman Michael Sherry said.

Residents of Oakwood Drive, a small street between Abbott Road and Bills Drive, recently told the board they were concerned that a house on their street had been purchased with the intention of tearing it down and turning it into a parking lot. They submitted a petition opposing that at the April 5 board meeting. Town officials said Wednesday the house has been demolished.

There has been an increase in recent years in the number of small, satellite parking lots near New Era Field, and the town continues to receive neighbors' complaints about parking on game days, Sherry said.

"It obviously impacts people's quality of life who live in that area," he said. "It can affect the value of people's homes. We need to take all those issue into consideration."

Last year, the town considered, and then abandoned, a proposal to require owners of private parking lots outside New Era Field to apply for permits that would allow police on their properties during events at the field, allowing them to quickly respond to public safety issues.

Many of the issues related to drunkenness, rowdyism and fights, as well as thefts, occur at the larger private lots, not the so-called "mom and pop" lots on a residential street, Police Chief Mark F. Pacholec said.

"Typically, those types of neighborhood lots… that's not where we see the problems," he said.

He said the town is developing a plan to deal with unruly fans. The owners of lots parking 10 to 20 cars don't usually have a problem, he said.

"If they have something get out of hand, they give us a call," he said.

Sherry said the Town Board wants to assess the issue, and get some feedback from the town's Comprehensive Plan Implementation Committee.

"The stadium, it's been here a long time and it certainly impacts our community. They way it impacts changes over time," he said.

The town expects to resolve the issue before the start of this year's football season, he said.

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