Winston-Salem council explores selective ban on front-yard parking

Members of the Winston-Salem City Council are interested in exploring the possibility of creating voluntary districts where parking in front yards would be prohibited.

“The reality is we are beginning to see different Winstons in Winston,” said North Ward Councilwoman Denise D. Adams, who represents an area adjacent to Wake Forest University. Adams worried about the message sent to residents and visitors when downtown looks “pristine” but residential neighborhood look rundown.

The city council has received complaints from the Waughtown area about front-yard parking, and Southeast Ward Councilman James Taylor Jr. said the practice contributes to the deterioration of communities he represents.

Adams and Taylor, along with South Ward Councilwoman Molly Leight made passionate arguments for outlawing front-yard parking citywide during the council’s general government committee meeting last night.

Southwest Ward Councilman Dan Besse and East Ward Councilman Derwin Montgomery indicated they are generally opposed to using the city’s ordinances to crack down on the practice.

Besse warned against a number of unintended consequences, predicting that it would cause a wave of paving in front yards, that it would promote feuding between neighbors, feed prejudice against residents from foreign countries who may have different cultural notions, and tie up law enforcement resources that are already strained.

Montgomery said that property owners should not be told what to do with their property, and if he were to host a family gathering he might want people to be able to park in his yard.

City Manager Lee Garrity urged caution.

“Sometimes you find that a problem that you need a scalpel, all government has is a hand grenade,” he said, “and you end up with a lot of collateral damage.”

Garrity suggested that instead of a citywide ban, council consider allowing for the creation of voluntary districts established through a petition process. To overcome the anticipated contingency that landlords would oppose the districts, Garrity said the council could give itself discretion of approval no matter what level of support the initiative received from property owners.

Taylor made a motion to adopt Garrity’s proposal as a gesture of compromise. The motion passed 4 to 1, with Leight voting against it because she said it wasn’t strong enough. Montgomery is not a member of the general government committee and accordingly did not vote. Garrity said he will bring a draft ordinance back to the committee for consideration in May.

The city of Greensboro implemented a citywide ban on front-yard parking in 2009, which requires that any parking area in front of a house must be physically defined and must not take up more than 40 percent of the area. The city council amended the ordinance providing an exception for short-term events of up to three days such as barbecues and family reunions. Zoning Administrator Mike Kirkman said the exemption applies only to residents.

“I think people are somewhat cognizant of [the ban],” Kirkman said. “We definitely see spikes when new students come in…. We have to reeducate people. Folks are fairly compliant. We still get complaints.”

Kirkman said the city has two code compliance officers who are responsible for enforcing the front-yard parking ban, along with other zoning compliance responsibilities. In a city of about 270,000, enforcing the ban is challenging, in part, because the ordinance requires documentation of three consecutive days of violations before enforcement action can begin.

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