NORTH TONAWANDA – The Common Council on Tuesday will tackle at its work session a growing parking problem in the city.
The problem is terrace parking, which means parking vehicles on the green space usually reserved for city trees, grass and utilities, in an area between the street and the sidewalk. Residents who don't have access to a driveway or have a shared driveway are illegally parking cars on that space. The practice increases when these residents face street parking restrictions in the winter.
"It's a dilemma in the older part of town bordered by Oliver Street, Wheatfield Street, Ironton Street and Eighth Avenue," said City Engineer Dale W. Marshall. "People from North Tonawanda or not from North Tonawanda are turning (these houses) into multiples and getting two apartments and there's no place to park in the winter time. The only place to park is in the terrace area."
The Common Council will discuss the matter at its work session at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in City Hall, 216 Payne Ave.
In the early 1900s factory workers, with lunch pails in hand, walked to the nearby Buffalo Bolt factory and later Roblin Steel, said Marshall. Houses on 30-foot lots that surrounded the former plant were built without driveways. As time passed these small single family homes may have added one car for the family, he said.
Since then, occupants have purchased more cars and recreational vehicles or have turned these houses into multiple apartments. Property owners began turning their front lawns or city-owned terrace space into parking.
Marshall said people are making illegal cuts in the curbs or putting asphalt topping over city-owned terrace areas and front yards without permission or permits.
"This is our property," said Marshall, who noted that gas lines and storm sewers are on this property. He said the practice of blacktopping terrace and green space is making the city look unattractive.
The city has been cracking down, handing out tickets and code violation notices. Residents who have parked on a terrace for years have been speaking out at Common Council meetings asking for a solution.
"There is no one simple solution that is going to please everyone," said Mayor Arthur G. Pappas at last week's Common Council meeting. He said he grew up in that area and if he still lived there he would be complaining too.
"I'm not sure there's an easy answer," said Acting Common Council President Catherine Schwandt.
Marshall said one idea that city officials have considered is purchasing honeycombed pavers for residents to buy from the city. These hollow pavers can can be put on the front lawn to support a vehicle while still allowing grass to grow for green space. Alternate street parking, which is not in place in North Tonawanda, has also been discussed as an option.
Marshall said the city can't go back to the old days – just looking the other way. He said the city has to come up with a way to grant special permits to residents when winter parking rules limit street parking.