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Fairfield council bans right of way parking

The Fairfield City Council passed the final reading of an ordinance Monday to ban parking in the right of way, the strip of ground between the street and sidewalk. (Photo courtesy of Michael Halley)
The Fairfield City Council passed the final reading of an ordinance Monday to ban parking in the right of way, the strip of ground between the street and sidewalk. (Photo courtesy of Michael Halley)

FAIRFIELD – The Fairfield City Council approved the third and final reading of an ordinance Monday night to ban parking in rights of way.

The right of way refers to the patch of ground between the street and sidewalk. The council voted unanimously to approve the ordinance, but it will not be published immediately.

Instead, as part of an amendment offered by council member Michael Halley after one of the earlier readings, the council agreed to first create a permitting process related to changes a property owner wishes to do in their right of way.

Halley wanted to give property owners enough time to remedy their parking arrangements before being faced with a fine from City Hall.

Council member Katy Anderson, who chairs the Transportation and Public Safety Committee that investigated the issue, said city staff will create a permitting process, which will then go to the Transportation and Public Safety Committee and later to the full council for approval.

There’s no firm deadline for the permitting process, but Anderson said she expects the committee to take up the matter by the end of the year. Once the council approves the language of the permit, both the permitting process and the ordinance will be published and can then be enforced.

Anderson explained that she doesn’t want the city to “rule with an iron fist,” and that’s why the council agreed to delay implementing the ordinance. She said there are a number of reasons the council passed the ordinance, one of which is that city utilities such as water and sewer lines are often under the right of way.

If residents park their cars on the right of way, it complicates repairs the city may need to make to one of its utilities. Other reasons for banning parking in the right of way included making the town look nicer and avoiding line-of-sight problems at intersections.

Anderson said her committee called neighboring cities to learn whether they regulated parking in the right of way – Washington, Mt. Pleasant, Ottumwa and Iowa City – and nearly all of them forbid it.

Halley said the permitting process will spell out the acceptable ways of parking at the front of a residence or business. For instance, he said the city particularly wants to avoid people who drive over a curb and park on a grassy area. But residents may be able to gain a permit if they have a concrete pad or compacted gravel, and have a curb cut.