Delaware News

Heavy snow prompts city leaders to rethink 'emergency'

Under current law, Delaware can ban parking on streets only during overnight hours

By

This winter has given city of Delaware officials plenty of time to think about snow.

One result may be a change in the city's rules about parking after snowstorms.

Last week, Delaware City Council discussed revisions to an ordinance that would make it easier for the city manager to declare an emergency and ban parking on city streets.

City Attorney Darren Shulman said the administration had suggested a change to a time limit in the original ordinance that regulates parking after snowfall. He said he wasn't sure why the original law limited bans to late-night and early-morning hours.

"(The proposed ordinance) expands our ability to prohibit parking to any time of the day," he said. "Currently ... from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. we can limit parking. As we've learned now, snow happens all day, amazingly enough."

Shulman said the revision also would allow the city manager to ban parking on a street in the case an emergency unrelated to snow.

He suggested fire or flooding as other emergencies that may lead to a parking ban on certain streets.

"There might be other situations where we would want to clear off a road in an emergency," he said.

The city still would be required to post signs informing residents of the hours and location of the closure if the proposed revisions to the ordinance become law.

Delaware Police Chief Bruce Pijanowski said he observed a potential problem with the city's current parking laws during a snowstorm last week. He said a large amount of snow was plowed into the middle of a downtown street, squeezing drivers between parking spots on one side and the snow pile on the other.

Even if it continued to snow and the situation grew worse, the city would not have had the authority to prevent residents from parking on the streets until 10 p.m, he said.

"Traffic was flowing, but if those piles had gotten any bigger and cars actually had been parking ... you were restricting the flow of traffic," he said. "It's just a safety issue."

Pijanowski said he also thought it would be prudent to give the city manager the ability to ban parking on certain streets during emergencies that did not involve snow.

Shulman said the administration took the term emergency literally when crafting the revision to the ordinance. He said the power to ban parking would be used only in situations that threatened public safety, not to make work more convenient for city employees.

Pijanowski said after a parking ban is put in place, the police department would attempt to contact the owners of any vehicles that were violating the ban. He said vehicles likely would be towed at city expense if the owners could not be reached.

Residents will have a chance to comment on the proposed changes to the city's parking-ban law at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 24 in council chambers during a public hearing and second reading of the ordinance.

Comments