By Guy Busby, email@example.com
SPANISH FORT – Signs at city parks and other locations warn that parking in certain areas is not allowed, but until now, Spanish Fort police have not had the authority to enforce the restrictions.
The Spanish Fort City Council will vote Monday, Dec. 6, on the city’s first parking ordinance. Police Chief John Barber said the new ordinance will not only allow officers to write tickets but will give the city the authority to move vehicles if needed for purposes such as clearing sites on Causeway before an expected hurricane storm surge.
“We have no way to do any parking enforcement,” Barber said.
He said officers have been asking drivers to move vehicles if they are parked in areas where signs say the practice is restricted, but police have not been able to write tickets.
“I informed the mayor that we could not enforce anything because we have no ordinance and so, even though the sign is there as kind of a guide or suggestion at this point, but without the ordinance we have no legal authority to issue an MOT, municipal ordinance ticket, if they’re in violation,” Barber said.
“We need to have teeth in parking ordinances. We’re not going out there just trying to write tickets, looking for something, but when we do have issues, we have to have some kind of legal authority to address them, and we don’t have that,” the chief added.
City Clerk Rebecca Gaines said the ordinance also allows vehicles to be removed or impounded if officers determine that the car must be moved.
City Attorney David Conner said that section of the ordinance could be used to remove cars parked on the Causeway before a hurricane hits.
“I think there’s an argument to be made,” Conner said. “They say vehicles can float in just a couple of inches of water. So certainly, if you have a big storm surge come in, that becomes an issue for neighboring property owners.”
The draft ordinance presented to the council on Monday, Nov. 15 also prohibited parking at city facilities between 11 p.m. and 5:30 a.m.
Conner said the wording could ban people from parking not only at city parks at night, but also at Spanish Fort City Hall and the Public Library.
“My question there is, is that what y’all want? And, if it is what you want, do you want it at every facility? I can almost see that at the parks,” Conner told council members. “The question is whether or not you want it that way at City Hall for example. I think there’s some people who pull into the parking lot to use the wi-fi from the library after hours for homework and different things. Different people work different hours, and some people are nighttime shifts. The question is whether you want that to apply to every facility or just city parks.”
Mayor Mike McMillan said residents should be allowed to park at City Hall if they need to use the library wi-fi signal.
“As we stand now, and this will be an ever-changing document, as the city grows and new facilities are out there,” McMillan said. “The only thing this really affects is the Community Center and our parks. At this point, all our parks are locked down at that time of night anyway, so I really think that probably needs to say city parks at this point in time. I know people park in front of here to get wi-fi signals and those kind of things at night. I don’t think we should stop that.”