LISBON - A group of Center Township residents are asking their township trustees to rescind a resolution passed last year prohibiting them from parking outside their homes if it is within the road right-of-way.
The petition presented to trustees last week has the names of 27 residents of Center and Brookfield avenues in the Ganders Flat section of the township.
"We have been using these rights-of-ways (ROW) for as many as 70 years in some cases and feel it would put undue hardship on some of our property owners to relocate where we park our vehicles," read the cover letter attached to the petition.
At issue is a resolution passed by the trustees in August 2011 banning parking within the ROW on certain sections of the abovementioned streets, plus three other township roads: Grant, Pritchard and McCallister.
The problem is the ROWs -the distance from the center line of the road that belongs to the township, usually 30 feet - in some instances extends into the yards as well as homes and garages located along Center and Brookfield.
This was never an issue until Sept. 24, when a Center Avenue resident called the county sheriff's office to complain about vehicles parked along the road. A deputy arrived and issued warnings to four vehicles on Center and two on Brookfield for parking within the ROW, regardless of whether they were on the road.
Mike Sweeney, who lives on Center and works as production manager at the Morning Journal, told the trustees this had never been a problem until two neighbors began feuding and one retaliated by complaining about the other parking vehicles along the road.
Sweeney said for many of the people who live on the street the only place they can park is off the road in front of their residence, which is clearly in the ROW. This is no longer an option with the ban imposed by the trustees.
"Am I in the ROW? Yes. Am I also on my own property? Yes," he said in explaining the quandary. Sweeney noted the ROW extends up to within two feet of his garage door, which means he is technically prohibited from parking in his driveway.
The problem is a bit more extreme for Center Avenue resident Trudie Seevers, whose home sits closer to the road. She said the ROW extends into her living room.
"Do you want me to park in my living room?" she asked.
"That's up to you," said Trustee Kenneth Schreffler.
Schreffler said they enacted the ban to comply with the law and protect the township from being sued should there be a traffic accident involving a car parked within the ROW.
Sweeney said the residents were blindsided by the ban until they received the warnings from the deputies, but Trustee Greg Shive disputed this, pointing out they posted signs on both streets shortly after adopting the resolution.
Sweeney told the trustees he believes they failed to follow the law when enacting the resolution. The law, he says, requires the township to post the ban in five conspicuous places for 30 days prior to the ban taking effect, and publish the resolution in a newspaper of general circulation for three consecutive weeks, and the trustees failed to do both.
Schreffler said before imposing the ban they ran everything past Andy Beech, an assistant Columbiana County prosecutor. He suggested they meet with Beech to go over the legal issues raised by Sweeney.
Schreffler also said the trustees, among themselves and in conversations with Beech, would investigate whether there is another solution that protects the township while allowing the residents to park in front of their homes but off the road.
"If there's any way we can work with you guys, we will," he assured them.