City Parking

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 3, 2009

City leaders bicker over parking issue

By Jason C. Mattox

More than 100 citizens filled the boardroom at Batesville’s City Hall Tuesday afternoon to hear discussion of a parking ordinance at a work session with the Mayor and Board of Aldermen.

 “Somehow it got put out there that we were going to make people pave their driveways,” Mayor Jerry Autrey told the standing room only crowd. “We are not in here to conspire against anybody. This is a meeting to help clean up the city.”

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Autrey explained that the board had previously voted on a parking ordinance but rescinded it one month later, shortly after the ordinance had become active.

“I am glad that people showed up for this meeting, because it shows you are all concerned about the city,” he said.

Autrey said that the purpose for the meeting had been “misconstrued.”

“This is a work session to allow us to get information,” the mayor said. “There will not be a vote on this today.”

Ward 2 Alderman Rufus Manley said he had circulated a letter within his ward and the surrounding community.

“I started the notice of this meeting, and the notice does not say there will be a vote. I said there could be a vote because anytime we meet, there could be a vote,” he said.

City Planner Bob Barber, who was present at the request of the board of aldermen, told the crowd that the city plan was being updated.

“A major goal of that process is to deal with nuisance situations,” Barber said. “The first ordinance that was proposed did not work, and you rescinded it.

“Now, I have some new options for the board to consider,” he continued.

The two options proposed to the board were to determine parking areas based on number of bedrooms per home or determine parking areas based on a percentage of the lot size.

“Front yards being paved over is not something you want to see,” Barber said. “It is very important to have green space in your neighborhoods, and by saying a certain percentage should be paved, it would allow maximum parking.”

Any current resident, but not the property itself, would be grandfathered and not affected by the proposed ordinance, Barber said.

“Right now, a lot of us are on a fixed income,” one resident said. “We can’t really afford to be putting a gravel pit in our front yard.”

“We pay taxes and try to live comfortably,” another resident added. “What do you want next, the house?”

Autrey again explained that the reason for the work session had been misconstrued.

“You will be grandfathered in,” he said. “This is something we might do for future residents.”

A noticeably upset Manley responded to the mayor.

“Mr. Mayor, I did not interrupt you, so don’t interrupt me,” he said. “This notice says a paved surface is required. That is not being misconstrued.

“The notice did not mention grandfathering anything in,” Manley continued. “We are doing this for one house. The city is discussing all of this because of one house.”

The house in question is located on Broad Street and is in Autrey’s neighborhood.

“This is a work session,” the mayor re-stated authoritatively. “We wanted to get some ideas. This is not a political thing.”

“I’m not politicking,” Manley replied. “I don’t have to do that in here.”

Developer Ted Stewart, Manley’s opponent for the Ward 2 seat, asked what the vote was on the original parking ordinance.

“Five to nothing,” City Clerk Laura Herron said.

“So Manley was for it back then,” Stewart prodded.

Manley admitted to voting with the majority, but only after determining, “there was no way to enforce it.”

“We do appreciate you being here and voicing your concerns,” Ward 4 Alderman Bobbie Jean Pounders said. “This meeting was called for us to discuss things. It was never our intention to make you change your existing driveways.”

Manley offered an opposing view.

“When the original ordinance was passed, there was no grandfather clause included,” he said. “And if it had not been rescinded, you would have had to put concrete on your drive. So you believe what you want to believe.”