A church in Warren is asking for the power to ban parking on an alley adjacent to the rear of its property.
Warren City Council received a letter from Rev. Jeffrey Sterling of First United Methodist Church that was read at Monday night's meeting. The letter asked that parking be banned on Watson Place.
The letter claimed that people needing handicapped access to where the church's elevator is located can't get there because cars are parking along the side of the the church building with most parking partially on the sidewalk, making a space that is too small for wheelchairs to navigate. It "really creates an unsafe situation" for those who try to turn onto Watson Place, the letter said.
In the letter, the church outlined several benefits to prohibiting parking, including the ability to line up cars for funeral processions more easily, avoid accidents with snow and ice from the church falling on the roadway as well as making snow removal easier. If parking was banned, and the city did not want to assume enforcement responsibilities, the letter also indicated that the church would take responsibility for having vehicles towed that are found to be in violation.
In a response from the city that was also read at council's meeting, city staff asked that a survey be completed to determine where church property starts and the street begins, adding that the alley currently meets the minimum requirements with an 11-foot lane of travel and 8-foot parking spaces. The letter acknowledged that the survey results may change the measurements if it is determined that the church owns additional property.
"The letter has gone out and we have yet to hear from them," Department of Public Works Director Mike Holtz told council. "As it stands now, Watson Place is an alleyway." He said that the sidewalk abuts the alley and "there is no green space...it's all one road, per say."
"We're assuming people can park on the sidewalk," Councilman Chris Park said.
"Who owns the sidewalk is sort of the question," Holtz explained. "That's where the question is."
Councilman John Lewis said that the sidewalk has been there for the 25 or 26 years he has attended the church. "The issue is that you can't really park there without putting a wheel on the sidewalk," he said.
Lewis questioned the measurements of the alley. "When you have 17 1/2 feet (of paving) and subtract 8 from it, you don't have a cart way...In order to maintain the sidewalk, if we're going to have a sidewalk, we can't park there."
Holtz reiterated that the map doesn't indicate where the property line is. "It isn't that clear," he said.
Councilman Sam Harvey asked if the city's response puts the responsibility on the property owner to get the survey done. Holtz said that it did, and added, "They have parked there for years. It's tough to tell where the sidewalk ends and Watson Place begins."