Fort Wood parking limits disputed

Fort Wood parking limits disputed

August 31st, 2012 by Rachel Bunn in Local Regional News

Bryan Lane, a junior at UTC, walks to campus along Vine Street on Thursday. Due to the free parking, students often park on the street, leaving little room for residents.

Photo by Allison Love /Times Free Press.

Drive through the historic Fort Wood neighborhood and the streets are lined with cars.

Residents who live in the "Fort Wood Parking District" - which includes the 800 blocks of Vine, Oak and Fort Wood streets and the 500 block of Fort Wood Place - are required to purchase a permit to park on the street. But residents say few of the parked cars belong to them, and they are asking the Chattanooga City Council to do something about it.

Some residents have petitioned the council to make changes to the parking district, including removing the signs that allow a one-hour grace period for cars without permits to park on the street without being ticketed. They also want to expand the district to Central Avenue.

The council is set to vote Tuesday on removing the signs.

Janice Heath, president of the Fort Wood Neighborhood Association, which is spearheading the effort to make parking changes, declined to comment on the issue until after the Tuesday meeting. However, she spoke at Tuesday's City Council meeting, expressing concern over the number of UTC students parking in the neighborhood.

But Ken Harpe, a board member and representative for the Kappa Sigma fraternity, which is on the 900 block of Vine in the middle of the proposed parking district expansion, said he is concerned that the expansion places a hardship on the fraternities, sororities and other organizations in Fort Wood. Harpe said Kappa Sigma holds meetings for its 60 members at its house.

"We want less restrictive parking measures to be able to accommodate our members," Harpe said. "Parking is tough; no one is saying this is an easy solution."

Though many Fort Wood residents are not happy with the two fraternities and the sorority in the neighborhood, Harpe said, the real issue neighbors have is with the students who are taking advantage of the "grace period" by parking in the neighborhood and walking to class.

"What the association wants to do is make those parking spaces very restrictive," he said. "That's not, in my opinion, going to keep students from parking there, though."

Cody Corcoran, 20, does not live in Fort Wood but parks there Tuesdays and Thursdays while he waits to pick up his mom, a student at UTC. He said he did not think the parking situation was that bad, but he understands how it could be frustrating for residents.

"I personally wouldn't like it, but it is kind of a public street," he said.

Damon Scott, 27, who lives in an apartment on Oak Street, also said he did not have an issue with parking in Fort Wood.

"I've seen worse," he said. "It's not like I have to drive around looking for a spot."

Harpe said the Fort Wood Neighborhood Association does not represent the interests of everyone in the neighborhood and has not taken into consideration any businesses or groups located there.

"If I'm a resident that lives in the middle of Fort Wood and I don't have a driveway and I can't find parking near my house, I understand how that could be frustrating," Harpe said. "We're trying to be cooperative and empathetic, but they are not recognizing our interests."