Parking wars, the sequel

When it comes to parking in Bellevue, this week’s council work session produced some good news, some more good news, and some news that may get mixed reactions.

An idea proposed by council member Jane Braunlich will go into effect Oct. 1 by order of the mayor, and will offer free parking in borough lots every weekend for 30 days.

Parking will be free in the lots on Saturdays and Sundays for the trial period, and then officials will check with businesses to determine if it has had a positive impact.

Specifically excluded from the free parking offer are meters along Lincoln Avenue and the other side streets, which officials are concerned will become “a parking lot” for business owners and their employees.

If the trial is successful, council could adopt an ordinance making the free parking available on a permanent basis.

The owners of vehicles tagged for street sweeping parking violations this year should be getting a check from the borough in the near future. Since the parking restrictions went into effect last spring, police have been writing tickets at the increased $15 rate the borough intended to adopt this year. The ordinance raising the fine from $10 to $15 was not adopted by council until August, however, and still may not be enforceable.

Braunlich pointed out that Bellevue’s home rule charter requires that adopted ordinances be advertised in a newspaper before they go into effect. The charter, in fact, states that ordinances will not go into effect until 10 days after their adoption has been advertised.

Although Bellevue advertised its intention in advance to consider the street sweeping ordinance, according to director of administrative services Doug Sample, no advertisement was placed after the ordinance actually was adopted.

Council was prepared to approve a motion to advertise the fact that the borough will offer refunds for tickets improperly issued at the higher fine, but Mayor George Doscher insisted that the borough go a step further.

“I don’t think this is adequate,” Doscher said of the plan to offer refunds. Noting that the borough is strict in requiring payment of fines, the mayor said that Bellevue needs to apply the same standards to itself and pull the records of all street sweeping tickets issued this year. The owners of those vehicles should receive a refund of the fine paid, he said.

Doscher volunteered to stuff envelopes to mail the refunds to the vehicle owners.

Finally, another decision by council could impact how much parking is available in two borough lots.

Sample said that an engineering firm is considering the purchase of the Central Methodist Church, located on Lincoln Avenue between North Sprague and Hawley avenues.

As a condition of that purchase and movement of its offices and employees to Bellevue, Sample said, the firm wants 20 parking spaces in Lot 1, which sits directly behind the church, and another 10 spaces in Lot 2, which is located behind the other side of Lincoln Avenue, between Meade and South Sprague avenues.

Sample said he attempted to convince firm representatives to take 20 spaces in the less-frequently used Lot 2, and only 10 in Lot 1, but was told that the Lot 1 number was “a deal-breaker.”

Sample said the firm also had requested reserved spaces in the lot for visitor parking.

Council agreed to allow the firm to purchase 30 parking permits, which would not reserve specific spaces in either lot, but instead allow permit holders to avoid putting money in the meters where parking already is available. The borough currently sells Lot 1 permits for $40 per month, but council agreed to offer a $5 discount per parking permit to anyone who purchases 10 or more permits per month.

According to Sample, there are 57 spaces in Lot 1, and the borough normally sells about a dozen permits per month for that lot.

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