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Judge limits football game parking

Andrew Thagard | Thursday, September 4, 2003

The St. Joseph Circuit Court issued an injunction Tuesday against eight residents of Wooded Estates, prohibiting them from charging fans to park vehicles on their property during Notre Dame home football games.

According to the injunction, such behavior qualifies as commercial activity on residential property, violating Section 21-8 of the city code, along with section 21-99 that mandates surfacing requirements for parked cars. The decision to park vehicles, according to some residents of Wooded Estates, also constituted a safety issue.

“We focused on this neighborhood in particular because [the residents] thought the quality of life and property values were decreasing,” said Ann-Carol Nash, assistant city attorney. “They were also concerned about safety.”

According to Nash, the city began an aggressive campaign two years ago to educate residents that it was against the law to charge fans to park on their lawns. Neighbors of some of the residents had previously complained to authorities that the parking created a disturbance, luring intoxicated football fans into the area, some of whom dumped hot coals onto lawns. Residents also reported that an ambulance was unable to quickly reach a cardiac patient due to parked cars and was forced to take an alternate route, Nash said.

Last year, South Bend police heightened action against residents who disobeyed the law, issuing fines to many. When some homeowners continued the practice in spite of multiple fines, the city filed suit.

The case between the city and 10 residents went to court on Friday and the verdict was reached Tuesday. All the residents represented themselves in court and two of the ten contacted the city attorney’s office and reached an agreed injunction in advance. Defendants in the case had all received at least two fines from the city prior to the suite.

Neighbors who were charged in the case expressed shock at the verdict.

“I thought it was a joke,” said Charley Hetterson, one of the defendants. “People have been parking here for 15 or 20 years. [The city] singles out certain people to come to court. They didn’t get everyone. My next door neighbor parked 26 cars and they didn’t get him.”

Nash, however, said that people were not singled out and that city rules will be enforced in all neighborhoods surrounding the campus on game days.

“Some of the neighbors got the impression that others were off the hook,” Nash said. “That’s not the case.”

The defendants have the opportunity to appeal the injunction within the next 30 days, and some of the neighbors have contacted an attorney, according to Hetterson. Residents also have the option of paving over their lawn to legally accommodate parked vehicles. Hetterson, however, said that he would not consider such a move.

“Why should I have to pave my front yard?” he asked. “No way. If I want to park cars in my yard, that’s my business, not the city’s. I pay property taxes.”

Notre Dame did not take a position on the case because the University was not directly involved, according to University spokesman Dennis Brown. He said, however, that Notre Dame has ample parking on campus to accommodate football fans.

“There is more than enough parking available on campus for any and all who would come for a Notre Dame football game,” Brown said. “There’s plenty of parking available.”