BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
MONTROSE – A new law that could restrict parking in rural areas of Lee County moved to a final reading on Tuesday.
However, at Tuesday’s regular meeting, the Lee County Board of Supervisors advanced the ordinance to allow more time for rural residents to give their input on the proposed rule.
The ordinance would allow the county, at the recommendation of the Lee County Engineer, to establish certain areas on county roads under it’s jurisdiction as no parking zones. The zones would be marked with appropriate signage.
The ordinance would effect the roughly 10,000 people in the county who live in unincorporated areas.
The ordinance would require the county engineer to make the recommendation and the board would have to vote on a resolution designating the no parking zone on a case-by-case basis.
Supervisor Ron Fedler said since word of the new ordinance got out after the board approved the first reading last week, he’s had many county residents approach him about the rule, including former supervisor Don Hunold.
“Apparently a lot of people in my district were not aware of this ordinance or new law, and I could not go any place with somebody telling me they did not support this, in that they felt this was not what the county should do,” Fedler said.
He added the Hunold reached out to him and told him the ordinance could end up causing more problems for the county than solutions.
“He said he felt that way because if this was passed and somebody came to us and wanted no parking for whatever reason and we approved it – he asked what happened when someone else comes and you don’t think it’s justified and you deny them. Do we open the county to a discrimination lawsuit?”
Fedler said he asked residents to come to the meeting and speak but they declined because they didn’t want people to know they were against it and retaliate.
The issue seemed to have surfaced in Denmark with people who were concerned about parking problems on the town’s west side near Dravis Automotive.
Fedler said the county shouldn’t be picking sides in a personal argument between two property owners.
Fedler said for 30 years there really hasn’t been any parking concerns until these issues cropped up.
County Engineer Ben Hull said the ordinance would give the county some options for enforcement in trouble areas. Supervisor Chair Gary Folluo asked Hull if he’s had any other complaints.
“I’ve not had any requests from the public but I can think of several areas where this could be a useful tool,” Hull said.
“We do have areas where they park on gravel roads and some of the conversations we’ve had with (Lee County Sheriff) Stacy (Weber) it’s difficult for his guys to determine and then section of Iowa code we go to is pretty obscure,” Hull said.
Hull said it wouldn’t just be for vehicles, but any kind of obstructions. He said he has the power to order moving the vehicles or obstructions.
“I think this would be a good tool to have,” Hull said. “I would agree completely that you have to be very fair and thoughtful in the way it’s implemented, and not just at the request of one person.”
“This isn’t a blanket ordinance, we can pick and choose where we want to do this,” said Supervisor Matt Pflug. “However, if we don’t act on this situation, does it continues to fester? That concerns me a bit.”
There was also discussion on Denmark Fire and Rescue getting to calls in town, but Fedler said there were a few problems but the emergency crews could get to the calls.
“One guy told me, well then because all the streets are narrow are we going to have the whole town of Denmark no parking for rescue? Then you really will have some anger,” Fedler said.
Supervisor Rick Larkin said he would vote in favor of the ordinance to move it to the third reading and give residents more of a chance to contact supervisors with their thoughts on the proposed law.
“I don’t look at this to settle a neighborhood argument over who’s right and who’s wrong, where we can park and where we can’t,” Larkin said. “You get into that, you’re gonna be like Fort Madison. There’s a lot of people upset about parking there, and parking down both sides of the street and you can’t get down the middle, that goes on all the time. I don’t know you ever solve the parking issue.”
Supervisor Rich Harlow said he wasn’t voting in favor of the ordinance because he thought a resolution to the issue could be found outside of a new law.
The ordinance moved to a third reading with Folluo, Pflug and Larkin voting in favor of the ordinance, and Fedler and Harlow voting against it.
The ordinance requires three readings before being published and then enacted. The third reading is set for the supervisors’ Aug. 27 meeting.