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Parents fume over parking restrictions

Ignoring wooden posts near Mintz Elementary results in towing and ticketing - and miffed administrators.

By SHANNON COLAVECCHIO-VAN SICKLER
Published August 15, 2003

The first week of school upped the ante on long-running tensions between Mintz Elementary and the Heather Lakes Homeowners Association, whose leaders are unwavering in a push to keep school traffic from clogging their front yards, driveways and main roads.

Six hundred wooden posts flanking Heather Lakes Boulevard around the 13-year-old school, installed last week by the homeowners association, have Mintz administrators and many parents miffed.

"For 13 years, the homeowners were quite willing to be child-friendly," said Mintz Elementary principal Susan Turner. "They knew that twice a day, people would park alongside the road. I'm very disappointed the association has chosen to do this."

Association leaders, some of whom have children attending Mintz, counter that affection for children has nothing to do with it.

"I hate the idea of towing or ticketing a parent's vehicle," said association president Scott Laugherty. "But I also can't have 567 homeowners griping at me because I'm spending thousands of their money every year to fix the sprinklers around the school."

After spending nearly $6,000 in recent months to repair Heather Lakes' sprinkler system, which saw the heaviest damage in the area surrounding Mintz, association leaders decided to invest $12,900 on the 4-foot wooden posts. The money comes from homeowners' annual dues of $240 per residence.

The idea is to keep cars off the grass on either side of Heather Lakes, where sprinkler heads were crumpling under the weight of illegally parked vehicles.

Last week's association meeting illustrated some residents' struggle to reconcile their feelings as parents with their desires as homeowners.

Judy Wright has two children at Mintz, and she is concerned that parents avoiding the new posts along Heather Lakes Boulevard now park in the grass along nearby Franford Drive.

"The car doors are opening right onto the sidewalk as children walk along Franford to school," she said. "It's not safe."

But Wright also feels for officials at Mintz, a school built before the homes surrounding it, with a visitor parking lot that's just not big enough for the school's 900-plus families.

"This is our school, so in a way this is our problem," she told the board of directors. "The district just built eight new schools, money is tight, and building more parking is just not a priority right now."

Turner said the school's back field can't be turned into permanent parking because it's at a low elevation and would flood. The school has a circle in front where parents can drop off children, but many of the younger students' parents prefer to escort them to class.

Laugherty, the homeowners association president, said a number of parents this week simply ignored the wooden posts, parking along Heather Lakes Boulevard with all four wheels in the road.

"We tried to be nice, and told one gentleman walking in with his son that it was a tow-away zone," Laugherty said. "So he's holding his son's hand with one hand, and flips me off with the other one."

Laugherty said sheriff's deputies started issuing $90 tickets to parents who instead parked on the east side of Franford Drive, where a sign warns, No stopping or standing.

- Shannon Colavecchio-Van Sickler can be reached at 661-2443 or svansickler@sptimes.com

[Last modified August 14, 2003, 09:48:25]

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