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Long winter (parking ban) forecast for the City of Tonawanda

Flurries aren't in Monday's forecast, but the City of Tonawanda is ready just in case.

The city's overnight parking ban takes effect on Oct. 1 each year – perhaps the earliest starting date for any community in Erie County.

Most cities, villages and towns in Buffalo Niagara wait until Nov. 1, or later, to ban parking at night on their roads.

But city officials say falling leaves – not snowflakes – drive the early start date.

"It was more out of a necessity to assist our public works people and leaf removal," Mayor Rick Davis said in an interview.

Tonawanda has an usual history with parking. The city was one of the only, if not the only, communities that banned on-street parking throughout the year, an ordinance that dated back to the 1940s.

During the winter, of course, it was to make way for snowplows. During the summer, barring on-street parking made it easier to investigate burglaries and larcenies, police officials said.

“One of the first things the detective bureau does is go back and pull parking tags to see if there was a car parked anywhere in the vicinity in a place it shouldn’t have been,” then Police Chief William Strassburg told the Common Council in 2014.

He also said at the time he feared people would indefinitely park a "junker" in front of the homes of neighbors they disliked, and he added the police granted permission for overnight parking on a case-by-case basis when requested.

Banning parking also allowed the city's sweepers to better navigate tight Tonawanda streets. With people free to park overnight during the summer, Davis said Friday, "There's some streets that haven't been touched since April 1."

A proposal to allow overnight parking during the summer was defeated in June 2014, but the Council later allowed overnight parking from April 1 until Sept. 30 as a test before approving an ordinance that struck down the year-round ban.

"Over the years there were residents that questioned whether the parking ban was necessary, and I think that's why the Council relented and allowed people to park in the summertime," Davis said.

Davis said the Council settled on an Oct. 1 start date to make leaf collection easier. He said the city doesn't have the type of mechanism that vacuums up leaves, and the system used by Tonawanda crews wouldn't work with parked cars and trucks clogging streets.

Tonawanda starts its ban early and keeps it in effect late.

Like a lot of communities, the city's ban runs through March 31. But, unlike many others, Tonawanda doesn't lift its parking ban if good weather is in the forecast for the end of March.

City of Tonawanda residents wonder why winter parking ban continues

In winter 2017, for example, a number of communities – including Buffalo, the Town of Tonawanda, Kenmore and North Tonawanda – all had lifted their winter parking bans by the first week in March following the warmest February on record.

Davis said he doesn't have the ability to lift the parking ban in the city. He said a change to a city ordinance has to be publicized in a newspaper and then voted on by the Council.

"It's a two- to three-week process. I personally can't wave a magic wand," Davis said.

So, Tonawanda residents, enjoy Monday's expected high of 68 degrees but get those vehicles off the street and – while you're at it – maybe throw your ice scraper in the back seat while you're at it.

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