BELDING — Grass, gravel, dirt, pavement — depending on what surface resides beneath the tires of your vehicle when parked in Belding, you may soon find yourself with a ticket on the windshield of your car.
The Belding Police Department has recently stepped up enforcement of front-yard and right-of-way parking for residents.
The step-up in enforcement, enacted in April, has resulted in a increase in tickets, something Police Chief Dale Nelson said has been a necessity after years of warning have been largely ineffective.
“This has been a long-standing issue,” he said. “Most residents have been very pleased with the correction, though of course many are upset and surprised by the sudden ticketing, but our efforts have raised the awareness of public parking.”
Nelson said one of the goals is to create a more pleasant look for the city, and after years of ineffective warnings, he said the tickets have worked more effectively and things are looking better.
“People are beginning to park the way they should,” he said. “We are heading in the right direction.”
Under the current city ordinance, residents are not allowed to park in the front yard of a residence.
Belding City Manager Randy DeBruine said the rationale behind the increased enforcement of front-yard and right-of-way parking is an effort to protect property values, prevent erosion of the streets and maintenance the general aesthetics of the city.
“If you go out and look at many areas between the our roads and sidewalks, we have erosion issues,” he said. “If we can get people to park correctly on the streets, that’s a first step in stopping one of the major causes of erosion.”
DeBruine noted that front yard parking can grow to a point of being a burden on neighbors, killing grass and diminishing values for nearby homes.
To avoid further confusion, Nelson would like to see changes adopted to current ordinances to make things more clear for residents involving parking in the city.
“There was some discussion with the Belding Planning Commission and at the city level, talking about the use of right-of-way parking,” he said. “We’re providing parking for the residents, and what they are doing, the law, as it is currently stated, a vehicle will be parked with its right wheels parked to the curb and cannot be more than 12 inches from that curb. That was one of the targeted violations because people have been parking on the grass as opposed to the side of the road.”
Nelson said the dead grass and eroded roadways have been a contributing factor to a number of citations of blight within the city.
“Grass, abandoned cars, junk in the yards, those are the kinds of issues we are constantly trying to take care of when it comes to blight,” he said.
What constitutes a front yard has created confusion among residents. DeBruine is hoping a public forum and subcommittee assigned to the situation can help clarify the situation for residents. A date for the public forum is yet to be set.
At the Belding Planning Commission meeting on Tuesday, discussion involved the possibility of amending the current ordinance to adjust the fees involved in ticketing for front-yard parking.
Under the current ordinance, a first offense is $100 and a second offense is $500.
DeBruine and Nelson said they would prefer those rates be adjusted to be much lower and less of a burden on citizens.
The new proposal asks that the first offense fine be lowered to $25 and the second offense lowered to $45.
Currently, Nelson said they have been ticketing residents $10 for front yard parking violations, as opposed to the $100 as stated in the city ordinance.
“Due to the heavier enforcement, we didn’t want to cause too much of a finical burden,” he said. “We understand this active enforcement comes as a surprise to many, and we’re hoping the $10 ticket is enough to grab everyone’s attention to begin parking correctly throughout the city.”
DeBruine said one of the options to help clarify the issue of right-of-way parking involves drafting a right-of-way ordinance. Currently, the city operates using the uniform traffic code set by the state of Michigan.
“The traffic code does include language about how you need to be parked parallel to the road, facing the road in the correct direction, parked within so many inches of the curb,” he said. “It’s good, but I would rather have a specific ordinance that the city can pass. It should be clear to have an ordinance in place.”
Planning Commission Chairman Gary Knowlton said he hopes residents understand the purpose behind the increased enforcement, as well as the lower fee being applied.
“The public needs to understand it is an attempt to clean up the city,” he said. “It hasn’t been enforced in a while, which is why we are trying to limit the fines to make the penalty not too great.”