With weeks to go before the winter ends, this season’s snowfall has already outpaced last year’s total of 35 inches by more than a foot, according to Chicagoland meteorologists. And all that fluffy white stuff is apparently hurting more than just the aching backs of shovel-wielding residents.
At a recent council meeting, Mayor Anthony Calderone asked commissioners to consider changing the regulations that govern street parking on residential streets. The steady snowfall is creating problems along designated snow routes, he said, ultimately making it difficult for plows to clear the way.
Part of the confusion comes from the language in the local ordinance that prohibits parking “after a snowfall of 2 inches or more.” There’s nothing in the regulation that says how soon after a snowplow clears the street a motorist can return their vehicle to that spot. In several cases, said Calderone, drivers have parked along snow routes after a snowplow makes a pass, but while the snow is still falling. Yes, the street is clear, but crews may need to come back in several hours, he said.
Any changes that might be made to the village’s snow routes will likely take hold in time for the 2008-09 winter season. Village officials have only begun brainstorming how to address the problem of getting the streets cleared with a minimal amount of inconvenience to motorists. Meanwhile, a little give and take will have to be enough to get through what remains of the current season.
“Technically, there’s 2 inches of snow on the ground now,” Deputy Police Chief Tom Aftanas said on a day in which no snow fell.
As a rule of thumb the police department follows the “fresh snow” definition when enforcing the snow routes, said Aftanas, meaning it’s highly unlikely someone’s car will be towed on a day that it’s not snowing. As of Feb. 13 the police department had towed 179 cars for snow route violations.
Aftanas couldn’t say definitively whether more cars have been towed this season than in years past, but offered up the logic that if there’s more snow there likely has been a proportional increase in towing. The two privately operated companies that share the village’s towing responsibilities were split in their assessment of this being a busier season.
In discussing possible changes, Commissioner Mark Hosty offered a radical adjustment to the existing regulations. He suggested that vehicles be allowed to park on only one side of the street on alternating days. This would allow snowplows to clear the full width of the streets, said Hosty, eliminating the ice and snow build up along the curbs.
Commissioner Rory Hoskins suggested the village build on the regulations already in place and do more to alert residents when the ban is in effect. Specifically, Hoskins called for more signs along designated snow routes.
Hosty, however, said that move could be cost prohibitive. Also, with three signs already posted on each block, there’s not much more the village can do in terms of signage, he said.
Aftanas agreed that more signs may not decrease the number of vehicles towed.
“You’re never going to have 100 percent compliance,” Aftanas said. “You can have a billboard on every block and some people aren’t going to see it.”
Whether to enact the parking ban during a snowfall is a decision made by the public works department. Plow drivers then notify police when they encounter a vehicle impeding their way. Officers make every effort to avoid towing the car, said Aftanas, largely because it’s a time consuming process that makes for more paperwork. Officers will run the vehicle’s license plate to see if the owner is a Forest Park resident, and if so, phone calls are made and doorbells are rung in an attempt to notify the owner. If the car is registered outside of town, there’s not much the police can do, said Aftanas.
All but seven streets in Forest Park are subject to the ban, according to the local ordinance.