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Football lawn parking debated

Maddie Hanna | Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Proponents of lawn parking during Notre Dame football games received a minor victory Tuesday when the South Bend Area Plan Commission decided a resolution to prohibit most forms of lawn parking – save for city-approved exceptions – would likely present more problems than it could solve.

The commission passed a motion to forward the resolution to the South Bend Common Council with an unfavorable recommendation.

What it came down to, a majority of the commission members said, was that the resolution encompassed two problems: the city-wide lawn parking that damages both property values and quality of life, and the temporary floods of out-of-town fans scrambling for spots on football weekends.

“What you’re trying to do is kill two birds with one stone, and it ain’t working,” commission member John McNamara told 4th District Council Member Ann Puzzello and Director of Code Enforcement for the City of South Bend Catherine Toppel, who co-sponsored the resolution.

The proposed resolution – which would prohibit all “front setback” parking not on a “durable, dust-free surface” – comes after a Sept. 7 Common Council debate on the issue

But, more importantly, it comes after decades of football seasons – decades in which residents have either grown accustomed to or grown to hate the parkers.

Jessica Payne, who has lived on N. Francis Street for more than 40 years, has learned to weigh the good aspects of game days (the excitement, the atmosphere) with the bad (the beer bottles and trash that inevitably end up on her lawn).

And the bad isn’t going away anytime soon, she said.

“If you tell people they can’t park on your lawn, it’s not going to make the problem go away,” Payne told the commission. “It has always been a problem.”

That’s why Payne opposed the resolution. She also doesn’t see a problem with giving people the choice to open their lawns to visitors – or with them receiving a few bucks in return.

“If other people want to let people park in their yard, let them – it’s their yard,” she said.

But for Jane Hobing, a Wooded Estates resident, the situation on football Saturdays has worsened to the point where the city’s intervention is necessary.

“We have a problem in our area,” she said. “What I would like to stress is the enforcement of this ordinance. … The Code Department is unavailable in the evenings and weekends, when many of these offenses occur.”

She also underlined the importance of “very stringent” criteria necessary for a resident to apply for a special parking permit.

“You can’t just hand out permits to whoever wants one, for whatever reason,” Hobing said.

The permit issue resurfaced frequently during the discussion. When questioned about the criteria to receive a permit, Puzzello said those details hadn’t been worked out yet, but said requesting an exception for an appropriate time limit and ensuring “neighborly behavior” would be necessary.

“Certainly, parking Friday night to Saturday night is probably a bit much,” she said.

Payne said the special exception rule would “open a flood of applications to problems the city’s not capable of handling.”

“We’re almost nitpicking on things we can’t control,” she said.

While Toppel said she was “concerned” about the enforcement and logistics of the resolution, she came back to the “need to start somewhere.”

“Right now, we have nothing,” she said, explaining that the City’s May 2004 zoning ordinance had removed the section that formerly addressed the lawn parking issue.

While Tuesday’s session ended with the commission siding against the resolution, it was still a start. Since the commission’s job is to evaluate but not formerly approve resolutions, it’s now up to the Common Council to decide what action to take.

The Area Plan Commission also approved a resolution presented by University architect Greg Hakanen and Barnes and Thornburg attorney Richard Deahl regarding the zoning of the area just south of campus that the University plans to develop.

The petition to rezone the 26.2-acre site – bordered by Eddy Street in the west, the realigned Angela/Edison Boulevard in the north and Twyckenham Drive in the east – was “part of a broader petition … to bring this property within the city limits for future development in collaboration with the City of South Bend,” Deahl said.

If approved by the Common Council, the resolution will rezone the area – which includes the Eddy Corridor, where the University plans to develop a new retail neighborhood – from University District “County” to University District “City.”

The next step, Hakanen said, is not yet decided.

“Our plan for the development of the land is evolving,” he said.

The Common Council will meet at 7 p.m. Sept. 25 on the fourth floor of the County-City Building.