Wednesday, February 8, 2023

‘What the hell is going on here?’: BAD residents parked in front of their homes for years, until city started ticketing them

The small sections of driveway and curb cuts that lead up to the townhomes on the 300 block of Brunswick street.

WILMINGTON — Homeowners on a block in downtown Wilmington are questioning why they are being ticketed for parking in front of their own residences.

The block is in the midst of the Brooklyn Arts District on Brunswick Street. Bottega Wine and Art anchors the Fourth Street-facing part of Brunswick, with a few duplexes, single-family homes and City Block apartments lining it down to Third Street. 

READ MORE: Free parking remains on N. Front until 2023

Tony Miller has lived in his home on the block for a decade. Before this summer, he frequently parked in what looks like a small driveway leading up to his garage, as have most of his neighbors with similar driveways.

But something changed in June. Miller told Port City Daily he found a warning ticket on his truck, followed up with the city and was told parking in the space was illegal.

“A couple weeks go by and I get a full-on ticket on my car, and I’m going, ‘What the hell is going on here?’” Miller said.

A series of warnings and tickets started going out to the neighbors parked in those spaces on June 23, according to the city. 

  • Warnings for no parking: 13
  • Citations for no parking: 8
  • Citations for parking in the wrong direction: 2

City Spokesperson Dylan Lee said the city owns the driveways and the issue is parking on curb cuts that lead into them, ultimately considered a public right of way.

But Miller said he has maintained the patch of grass in front of his home the entire time he has lived there.

The city claims it provided curb cuts so homeowners can access the driveways. However, there is no space to park a normal sedan in the driveway area without crossing onto the curb cut and road, or to pull up farther and by proxy block the sidewalk.

Complaints started rolling in around May and June, the city noted, relating “to vehicles regularly blocking portions of the sidewalk and rear end of vehicles extending into Brunswick Street.”

“Parking in the right-of-way and on sidewalks presents a public safety danger and violates [Americans with Disabilities Act] compliance,” city spokesperson Jennifer Dandron said in a statement.

After being pressed on why the city chose to enforce the issue now after homeowners have parked the same way for years, Dandron said the rising popularity of the area has seen an “increase in parking and pedestrians, and with that, even greater emphasis on public safety.”

Miller said the neighbors have always taken care to not block the sidewalks. Photos taken by the city’s parking enforcement contractor show vehicles not blocking the sidewalks as well, though they do extend into the curb cuts.

Miller said he spoke to parking manager Chance Dunbar about the issue once and discussed the possibility of permits for homeowners, but never heard back about a resolution. For the city’s part, it claims Dunbar “had conversations with several residents and at least one property manager” to explain the issue.

Grady Campbell said his family repeatedly received warning tickets over a two-week period until they received two $25 fines they were required to pay.

“Brunswick Street, between Third and Fourth, it’s pretty narrow, with vehicles parked on both sides of the street; really only one vehicle can go up and down,” Campbell said. “That’s what we thought the issue was. The city said, ‘No, your driveway is our property.’ That’s a tough thing to hear.”

Campbell said he has lived in his home for two years and, like Miller, parked the same way with no issues until June. He and Miller said they now often park far away from their homes to avoid being ticketed. While the apartment buildings directly across the street have a parking deck, renters often take street spaces — as do most who come to the area to visit the many businesses or people who live on the Northside. 

“They don’t want to pull into the driveway or their parking deck and wait for the gate,” Campbell said. “They’re opportunists, just like everyone else, and go, ‘Hey, there’s an open spot,’ It’s not uncommon for us to have to park two, three blocks away and walk in.”

Campbell said his family has been ticketed while unloading groceries as well. 

Prior to the latest round of enforcement, they have had other issues with parking. Both neighbors said they have come home to find cars parked directly in front of their driveways. Campbell said someone has parked in his driveway more than once.

“I even put signs up saying ‘do not block the driveway’ because people kept blocking me in even while I was parked there,” Miller said.

Miller pointed out preventing owners from parking in front of their homes means their vehicles are taking up more public parking downtown. There are only 12 on-street parking spaces on the 300 block.

“There’s nowhere in this neighborhood for the people who actually live here to park,” Miller said.

Miller and Campbell are both on board with the idea of permits to compromise on the issue.

“It seems it’s the least the city could do for us,” Campbell wrote to PCD in an email on Friday. “Collectively between the three townhome buildings we brought roughly $3 to $4 million in real estate.”

The Brooklyn Arts District is one of the remaining free areas to park near downtown.

Has the parking situation on your block changed recently? Email and let us know.

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