LUMBERTON — A city man has taken his fight for a parking spot to City Hall.
Keith Pittman wants a city ordinance repealed that says residents can’t park their vehicles on the north side of Eighth and 10th streets between Cedar and Willow streets. City leaders say the ordinance that was approved by City Council on Dec. 6 and went into effect on Jan. 1 is to ensure emergency vehicles have wiggle room to get down the affected sections of roadways.
The 40-year-old Pittman, a 10th Street resident and former tractor-trailer driver, argues that even with people parking on the side of the street there is plenty of room for him to get his big-rig, without a trailer, down the streets. His rig is no wider than an ambulance, he said.
The new law wasn’t announced, Pittman said. And more police cars are patroling the area in order to enforce the new law.
“When it started, we saw nine or 10 police cars down here at one time,” Pittman said.
He decided to take his story of frustration to the City Council.
“When Keith went down to City Hall to find out the time of the meeting, so that he could talk about the problem, they told him different times and days that were incorrect,” said Mia Evans, Pittman’s next-door neighbor.
Pittman persisted, and rose to speak during the public comment period of the May 14 City Council meeting. He told council members that the community is upset about the new laws.
Pittman remains frustrated, and is trying to determine what his next step will be. He already has approached the Lumberton Police Department without results. His councilman, John Cantey, didn’t have a solution either.
“I talked with my councilman, and he said the ordinance had to do with events and people parking in neighbor’s yards,” Pittman said. “Observations were made in the area, and it was described as being a high traffic zone.”
The targeted streets are residential with high-traffic counts, Cantey said.
“What we are seeing are people with several cars parking on the street, he said. “What we’ve done is to restrict parking on the left side of the street.”
“A lot of traffic and parking issues are based on location,” City Attorney Holt Moore said. “The council looks at specific locations and sets ordinances for small areas. It’s a case-by-case basis. The solution is tailored to areas where concerns have risen.”
Pittman says the city’s reasoning is trumped up.
“Cantey said that there had been complaints by drivers of emergency vehicles that they couldn’t get through the parked cars on both sides,” Pittman said. “UPS drivers get through here all the time. There’s not much difference between a UPS truck and an ambulance.
“If emergency personnel are having problems coming through,” he added, “I’d like to see documentation on that.”
One question is why the no-parking area is only on one block of a multi-block street.
“It’s only on Willow to 10th, and only on one side,” he said. “Why classify only one side of the street?”
“Most of the rest of this street is commercial beyond Willow,” Moore said. “This area is less dense, with fewer cars parked on the roadside.”
There are signs up and down the block. Residents say a city employee’s home in the same block has no signs.
“We feel harassed,” Mia Evans said. “It’s my front porch, and it’s my right to sit on here. I believe I can park in front of my own house. I want to be treated like others, fairly and equally.”
“I don’t want to be bullied,” Pittman said. “I like it to be peaceful here, not to live in fear. I want them to leave us alone. I want to have cookouts again, with the whole neighborhood. This situation is making it difficult.”
They claim harassment.
Pittman said he was given a ticket for riding a bike without a reflector at night.
Evans said her son got a ticket when he had parked for just a minute.
“He had left the house and forgot something, and came back to pick it up,” she said. “He heard a engine gunning it to get down there, and when he came out there was an officer writing a ticket for $5.”
Tickets also are being written in areas where no signs are posted.
“There’s no sign in front of my house, but it’s still enforced,” said Pittman. “There are six houses with no signs.”
Pittman follows the rules, but he doesn’t like it.
“It’s not a big deal when you go grocery shopping to walk from your car to the store,” Cantey said. “Why is it a problem to park across the street from your house? There is a vacant lot across the street from Mr. Pittman, and he could park in front of that.”
Nicole Jerald, co-owner of the lot, disputed that.
“This is my yard, and it’s not vacant,” she said. “My husband went to City Hall, and they said you couldn’t park on either side.”
Parking is available, but the narrow width of the street blocks emergency vehicles, Cantey said. Roadside parking is causing this. Parking in their driveway will solve the problem.
“I’m sorry that one or two homeowners have problems,” he said. “They may be embellishing the story to make it look good.”
“If my constituents have a problem, they can come to City Hall or the Police Department and talk about it,” Cantey said. “I appreciate citizens being active, but don’t wait until the last minute. The sign was up before April, over a month. They are just now getting involved.”
The City Council’s job is to protect the safety of all resident, and some rules won’t be popular, he said.
Cantey said he did talk to Pittman, but didn’t get an opportunity to explain because Pittman was unwilling to listen.