Overnight parking ban causes unrest on Rowland Street

Residents of the Marblehead Housing Authority felt gridlocked after being forbidden to park on the street overnight. A notice from the Department of Public Works went out on Monday, May 1 detailing how leaving vehicles on the street overnight would result in them being towed. The ban began on May 3 and ended on the morning of May 6.

The ban caused immediate conflict for the residents, as many of them use the street to park their cars on a daily basis. While the senior-living complex does have a parking lot, it does not have enough space for everyone, according to tenant representative Bill Kuker.

“There’s 41 units in this place and only 22 parking spaces,” said Kuker. “You see a stretch of lawn and a tree out front, I see eight more parking places and that would still not be enough.”

Kuker suggested the age of the building as the reason for the lack of adequate parking. Kuker also said the closest legal place the tenants could park during the ban is about half a mile from the complex, and they would have to walk up Prospect Hill.

“This is a very convenient spot to walk to things if you are physically able, but a lot of people here aren’t,” said Kuker. “There’s people here in their 80s and 90s… it’s like they said ‘Let grandma climb the hill.’”

The main aspect of this notice that caught residents off-guard was the unprecedented length. Kuker referenced when the town used to enact multiple-day parking bans, but said they were solely because of snow in the winter and people were told in advance so they could plan around it.

“Can you just tell us what night the street is going to be cleaned? Because this is an old folks’ home!” Kuker said.

Additionally, Kuker found the notice letter itself confusing, as he could not determine which day the parking ban actually took effect.

“Everyone thought [May 3] would be yesterday, but yesterday started at 12:01 am. So we were left asking why we were getting tickets on Tuesday night,” Kuker said emphatically.

Gordon Lothrop, another resident, was able to avoid the situation without penalty but called it “poorly conceived and poorly executed.” Other residents were not as fortunate, as they received warnings on the first night and tickets on the second if they were unable to find a place to move their cars.

Kuker reached out to Director of Public Works Amy McHugh, and after “raising holy hell” he got the city to cut the ban in half and finish their sweeping by the morning of May 4.

McHugh cited the end of the Winter Off Street Parking bylaw as the reason for the multiple-overnight parking ban. According to McHugh, there were numerous warnings given to residents about this new parking ban.

“Residents were notified by CodeRed, website updates, Marblehead Police Facebook page, temporary signs and door tags in the parking ban areas,” said McHugh. “The DPW understands the inconvenience of this process, however, the bylaws and procedures in place dictate how a parking ban can be implemented. During the event calls and emails from residents are accepted, logged and information to assist the resident with the issue or explain the need for the parking ban are completed.”

She discussed Kuker’s frustrations and said she understood them, and was happy the ban was lifted early. McHugh did not make a direct reference to Kuker’s actions as the cause for the sweeping being completed early.