Parking on lawns gets critical look


Cars are seen parked on the lawn of a home on NW 1st Court in this Aug. 31, 2006, file photo.

Aaron Daye/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Monday, January 28, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 27, 2008 at 11:57 p.m.

The creation of Gainesville's first resident-initiated special district to control lawn parking in front of homes that are primarily occupied by college students will get an initial hearing with the Gainesville City Commission today.

Melody Marshall, president of the Forest Ridge-Henderson Heights Neighborhood Association, said residents believe the action will give them and the city the regulatory teeth to control a problem that is unsightly and can cause pollution.

"We have some issues with it in the neighborhood and we want to stem them," Marshall said. "Because people don't want to park one in front of each other in the driveway, they park on the lawn for convenience. It's more out of convenience than out of necessity. Sometimes it's not really caring and not really understanding what it is like to live in a single-family neighborhood - what's expected of you and the respect that you should show for your neighbors."

The commission will consider creating a residential parking overlay district in the neighborhood. It limits parking to driveways that meet certain dimensional requirements.

For instance, the maximum width of the driveway is 18 feet or the width of the enclosed parking space. Pullout spaces can be no more than 9 feet wide and 16 feet long and must be covered with pavement, gravel, wood chips, bark mulch or other erosion-preventing material.

Also, no more than 40 percent of the front yard may be devoted to driveway parking area and pullout spaces.

The regulations mirror those in the University Context Area, a district encompassing the neighborhoods around the University of Florida that was designated in 1997.

The intent of the special district is to end haphazard parking on front lawns, a practice that has grown as students move into homes that are in single-family neighborhoods.

Forest Ridge residents had to get at least 60 percent of the 280 homeowners within the subdivision to agree to the district. The matter is then processed as a rezoning with public hearings before eventual approval or rejection by the City Commission.

John Wachtel, the city's neighborhood planning coordinator, said Forest Ridge will be the first to get an overlay designation if the commission approves it. No others are in the pipeline.

"There were a few other neighborhoods that came in and met with me to get some information and were considering it, but Forest Ridge is the only neighborhood that has gone beyond that," Wachtel said. "The enabling ordinance was approved in September 2006. It seemed like I'd get a few inquiries when that happened and they kind of stopped coming in as it got further away from that."

Today will be the first of two votes by the City Commission on the Forest Ridge district. Marshall said she expected a number of residents to attend to support the measure. She added that some students in Forest Ridge are fine neighbors who do not create problems.

Cindy Swirko can be reached at 352-374-5024 or swirkoc@ gvillesun.com.

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