Chesterton Tribune



Parking dispute: Town threatens to tow residents' vehicles at Porter Beach

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Porter Beach resident Michael O’Connor told reporters after Tuesday’s Porter Town Council meeting it’s likely an injunction will be sought over town plans to tow vehicles parked on Dearborn Street, which is prohibited by ordinance.

The dust-up is the latest in long-standing parking problems at Porter Beach, where some roads/alleys are platted but unbuilt and some homes are inaccessible by vehicle with no on-site parking.

Several years ago the Dearborn association was formed, but O’Connor confirmed there is no existing agreement between it and the Town of Porter. The association assesses dues for upkeep of a lot where members park on both private property and the town street.

O’Connor came before a previous Town Council in 2007 inquiring about using Dearborn for parking. He said the practice has been ongoing for 50 years.

During Tuesday’s council meeting, O’Connor displayed a Porter Police Department flyer left on cars for beach residents indicating the town will ticket and/or tow vehicles illegally parked on Dearborn effective July 15. O’Connor asked chief James Spanier to explain why.

Spanier said a complaint was received about cars parking on a town road. “For police, there’s not good laws or bad laws. There’s the law.”

Council president Elka Nelson noted the town receives no revenue from the association lot even though a private group is leasing out town property; she indicated the council is open to negotiating a proposed agreement but until one is adopted, there is no on-street parking at Porter Beach and town code will be enforced.

O’Connor said that’s not an acceptable option because residents haven’t been given enough time; he later described it as an onerous punishment and questioned why it’s being employed now by a council that campaigned on maintaining open government.

As O’Connor pressed Spanier for answers how residents would find their towed cars, Nelson ended the discussion. “I didn’t like him cross examining my (police) chief,” she later explained to reporters.

At the June 25 council meeting Nelson stated the town had received requests from two Porter Beach residents seeking a license to park on Dearborn; the matter was referred to the town attorney.

A Porter Beach resident herself, Nelson confirmed she’s subsequently outlined a tentative proposal to parking association officers that, if acceptable, would be reviewed by town staff and the attorney before being brought to the full council. Nelson also wants to see how the association was incorporated as well as its bylaws and membership.

Nelson said the town’s only interest is providing parking spaces for people who are landlocked without vehicle access as opposed to for people with on-site parking who just want more.

O’Connor said the association is being coerced by the town to create public parking.

In other business Tuesday:

*  A Michigami Trail resident asked the council to consider allowing chickens in a residential zone. Nelson asked that a letter be submitted outlining what’s proposed so town officials can review town code, and what’s being done in other communities.

*  Voting 5-0, the council appointed Republican Charles Kaufman to serve on the Park Board until Dec. 31 completing the unexpired term of Patty Raffin, who resigned. The other applicant was Jessie Campaniello; she formerly served on the board but resigned.

*  Public Works superintendent Brenda Brueckheimer was excited to report that a new Porter Avenue sewer lift station was set in place. The project is eight years in coming, she noted, and a demolition day for the current undersized station will be scheduled.

*  Brueckheimer emphasized that brush/branch pick-up from last week’s storm is slowed because residents aren’t stacking the cut ends toward the street and limiting piles to no higher than 4 feet. Oversize, haphazard piles will be tagged, left and picked up later when all properly stacked brush is cleared.

*  Spanier said he received an application from Ride 2 Recovery for an upcoming pass through town on U.S. 12. The group, which is anticipating almost 200 veterans, disabled veterans and support staff on its cross-country trip, is requesting a police escort through town on U.S. 12.

*  Spanier, Nelson and park director Brian Bugajski all praised those reponsible for organizing and working at the recent Lakefront fireworks and at the many activities of the Family 4th Fest at Hawthorne Park. Bugajski said the Park Department hopes to do things bigger and better next year.


Posted 7/10/2013