BY PHIL CUSTODIO
Clarkston News Editor
On-street parking on East Church Street is no more.
Clarkston City Council voted unanimously, May 8, to prohibit East Church Street parking east of Buffalo to the city limits.
E. Church Street residents have been complaining to the city for months about restaurant employees parking in their neighborhood late into the night.
“I call the police when they park in front of fire hydrants,” said resident Linda Robertson, speaking during public comment at the May 8 meeting. “It endangers neighbors and myself.”
Parking issues should have been addressed when new restaurants, including the Honcho Union Joints establishment and the yet-to-be-opened eatery at 15 S. Main Street, were approved, Robertson said.
“Now we’re stuck with employees parking on our street for hours on end,” she said. “At 12 at night, there are still cars parked in front of my house. I don’t like it.”
The city Parking Committee recommended posting “no parking” signs on Church Street.
Committee members conducted a door-to-door survey of Church Street residents, which showed every resident supported the parking ban proposal.
“It was unanimously – they do not want parking on Church Street due to health concerns, ambulance access, Pedicab riding up the hill, people walking, biking, skate boarding,” said Council member Rick Detkowski.
The committee also recommended no parking on South Buffalo Street. That street was not included in Monday’s decision because committee members haven’t been able to meet all the residents living there yet, Detkowski said.
“For now, the motion is for no parking on Church Street based on unanimous resident feedback,” he said.
Council member Jason Kneisc favored waiting in order to include Buffalo as a “package deal.”
“Going down Buffalo is like a game of ‘Frogger,'” Kneisc said.
Church Street resident Kay Pearson agreed, it’s a safety issue.
“I drive Buffalo quite a bit. Only one car can get through there at a time,” Pearson said.
The new no-parking zone does not include five spots on Church Street at Buffalo, which are paved and set back from the road, and also next to Council member Sharron Catallo’s home.
Catallo said they should have consulted with city engineers first for their views on the design of the road and if it’s unsafe.
“We were was told by the Mayor (Steven Percival, who was absent from the meeting) to cross all the T’s and dot the I’s in everything we do, and that’s good advice, but now we’re choosing to flip it out the window,” she said. “I think the engineers would side with you – but you need to have good concrete advice on what to do.”
Council member David Marsh said they should find out what engineers think of the new policy.
“I think we should know,” Marsh said.
Resident Don Frayer said the city should talk to people trained to deal with this, “to prevent us from walking into a problem.”
“Now’s the time to look at the larger picture – recognize we’ve got to do something about Church. It’s part of a bigger issue,” Frayer said.
Kneisc said he trusts the input from residents.
“That’s the issue. What’s best for the community, for the people who live here,” he said. “Engineers may say it’s perfectly fine – reality may be different.”
Speaking during public comment, Curt Catallo, Union Joints owner and Sharron Catallo’s son, spoke in favor of restricting parking on Church and Buffalo.
“We’re in the hospitality business,” said Curt, who said he is not speaking for all businesses in Clarkston. “Employees are parking legally, but they’re creating the opposite of good will for us. You have the ability to take those cars off the street. I would rather deal with the negative perception of Clarkston from outsiders coming in who can’t find a spot, than put up with negative perceptions of people in the community I call home.”
Another issue is whether more residents will come forward, saying their streets are also too small for parking, and request no public parking there as well, Marsh said.
“What would you say,” he asked. “Residents on Holcomb might say they don’t want parking in front of their houses – you can’t only take consideration of a few residents and not all of them.”
“Get ready,” Sharron warned.
Council member Eric Haven wants to use the no-parking policy as a pilot program, to learn from.
“See how it works,” he said.
The Parking Committee was scheduled to meet on May 16, to discuss a public forum at the library, permit parking, residential concerns on South Buffalo, and costs for paid parking in the Main and Washington lot for attendant, enforcement, and signs.
A meeting is also scheduled for May 24, 6:30 p.m. at City Hall.
BY PHIL CUSTODIO