Issues arise after city council passes parking ban

Staff writer

Ty Zeiner of Zeiner Funeral Home plans to ask city council members to amend an ordinance passed at last weeks’ meeting that bans parking in front of the funeral home.

“I don’t think the ordinance was thought through,” he said.

The ordinance bans parking on the west side of the street between Main St. and Denver St., and stems from an incident Jan. 12 when a fire truck was barely able to make it up the congested street while Sunday services were being held at Marion Christian Church and Marion Presbyterian Church.

“The only time the street is congested is when there are Sunday services,” he said. “If parking on our side of the street was only banned during that time, it would take care of the problem.”

He hopes the council will consider an amended ordinance that only bans parking on the street from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sundays to relieve the congestion caused when people park on both sides of the street. This compromise would allow patrons of Zeiner Funeral Home to utilize parking near the business.

“During funeral services, I usually block off parking in front of home so that way the street does not get congested,” Zeiner said. “Last Sunday as an experiment I put cones out in front of the home and it worked fine.”

Zeiner said he has received several calls from concerned older patrons, who make up most of his clientele, about where they could park to safely access the business.

“We have a very small lot and limited parking along the back of the building, but not many spaces that would be safe for elderly customers to use to get to the home,” he said. “They expressed concerns at coming to the home if there was nowhere for them to safely park. We need to have parking on our side of the street so they can access the building.”

However, that is not Zeiner’s biggest problem with the ordinance. It was the fact that the city would pass an ordinance that would hinder his business, he said.

“It seems to me that the city should be trying to help businesses, not hinder them,” he said. “What upsets me more than anything is that the city administrator never tried to contact me. That shows how little they care about businesses in the community.”

Another hindrance to the ordinance was the discovery of an ordinance from 1976 that bans parking on the east side of the entire length of Elm St. The city has been unable to find evidence of the ordinance being rescinded.

“The ordinance was rescinded by police action somewhere between 1988 and 1992 but there is no documentation,” city administrator Roger Holter said. “The police chief at the time ordered the signs removed. We are not sure why. The chief has since passed, but we were able to located one of his officers that still lives locally to get some information.”

Donald Keazer was police chief during that time. Keazer still resides in Marion and has no recollection of any no-parking signs being on Elm St., he said. Garry Klose a police officer under Keazer also does not remember any no-parking signs on Elm.

“The only no-parking signs I remember were the little ones we used for Old Settlers’ Day or Chingawassa,” Klose said. “All police can do for city signage is make recommendations, to put up or remove signs there has to be an ordinance passed by the city council.”

Currently both ordinances are valid, police chief Tyler Mermis said, but because of the confusion no ordinance is currently being enforced by officers.

“We’re looking for ways to compromise,” he said. “I’m not going to ask the guys to enforce an ordinance until we have a chance to sit down and hear everyone’s opinion. Hopefully we can come up with a solution that fits everyone.”

Mermis said he guesses someone took down the signs and forgot to alert the city to change the ordinance.

“We’re still trying to figure out exactly who ordered, and when the signs were removed,” he said.

City attorney Susan Robson said she didn’t think police can rescind an ordinance without council action, and the city has requested a codification that lists all city ordinances in place.

“It’s just a giant list of things that are effective and when they were put into place,” she said. “It can be confusing for the council to know what ordinances are in place this helps with that. It will help the council from passing competing ordinances.”

The codification will not be available to the council before their next meeting, Robson said.

“We can’t have people blocking private driveways,” Holter said. “On the west side there are nine driveway entrances so you lose nine spots, and with the spacing of the driveways you lose more.”

The east side of the road has only two driveways, allowing more cars to park along the roadway. Holter said that is the reasoning behind choosing the west side of the street for the ordinance.

The churches affected by the ordinance have been contacted and agree the ordinance is appropriate to allow fire and emergency vehicles to pass safely up the street, Holter said.

“The streets were laid out during a time of Model T’s the term SUV wasn’t even a thought then,” Holter said. “Vehicles were substantially smaller back then, and by the time people park on both sides of the street, there is only 10 feet of clearance for moving traffic. The ordinance is important for the safety of the citizens.”

Elm St. was constructed even before the Model T was invented.

A story last week mistakenly reported that police chief Tyler Mermis tried to reach Ty Zeiner with no luck. Holter was the one who tried to reach Zeiner, he said, although Zeiner disputes that anyone from the city tried to contact him before the ordinance was passed.

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