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Parking problems are putting
residents in a tight spot

Dense layout of some neighbourhoods has forced people to park on or pave over their lawns

Published May 10, 2013

It was supposed to be the perfect neighbourhood, where everything you need is within walking distance.

Instead, this neighbourhood in uptown Burlington has become the centre of a parking war that’s frustrating residents and planners alike. Properties here were built for one car per household, but most homes have at least two cars and nowhere to park them.

“They built the area before they thought it through,” says Cindy Pomeroy, who moved into a home on Lampman Ave. 14 years ago, when the subdivision was brand new.

It’s a similar story for people who live in The Orchard and Alton, new neighbourhoods where streets are narrow, good for walking and cycling but not equipped for heavy vehicle traffic.

The dispute is frustrating residents, who have a lack of space and too many parking tickets to show for it. One of Pomeroy’s neighbours has come up with a makeshift solution by parking on his lawn, which she wants to see in her neighbourhood.

“I think it looks trashy,” she said.

She says her neighbour doesn’t want to park on his lawn, something the city prohibits under zoning bylaws, but he can’t fit the car on his driveway or in his garage. He’s considering widening it. Pomeroy’s family paved over their own lawn 13 years ago so they could fit both their cars in the driveway.

“We’ve designed a community that was looking into the future. But we’re still trying to live today,” said city councillor Blair Lancaster, who represents the five-year-old Alton neighbourhood.

The cause of the mismatch between planning and reality is rooted in demographics, says Bruce Zvaniga, Burlington’s director of transportation.

Many families have adult children living at home longer than expected, adding to already crowded driveways.

Burlington has long depended on cars to get around and public transit has been slow to catch on. Last year, city councillor Paul Sharman estimated only 2 per cent of the city’s commuters use transit, leaving seats empty 90 per cent of the time and dividing council on how many resources to spend on transit.

It doesn’t help that Burlington Transit fares are expensive at $3.25, more than it costs to take the TTC.

City staffers have spent the last few months talking to residents to look for a compromise, a way to keep the idea of a walkable neighbourhood alive while moving cars off front lawns and into legal parking spots.

“We’re handing out tickets to people who are just trying to park their cars, who can’t park overnight anywhere,” said Sharman, whose ward includes Pomeroy’s neighbourhood.

“I had to lobby hard at city hall to get staff to acknowledge it was a problem.”

You can only park on most Burlington streets for three hours at a time, and adding overnight parking to more streets is one solution staff may recommend in a report to council in September, Zvaniga said. Overnight parking is determined on a street-by-street basis today, and only if a majority of residents sign a petition asking for it.

City planners are also considering the solution Pomeroy and many of her neighbours on Lampman Ave. have already adopted. They may allow people to widen their driveways enough to fit a second car. Residents can widen their driveways now but must follow the regulations of a city bylaw and obtain a driveway permit.

“There are some real challenges with permitting that,” Zvaniga said. Hard surfaces, he explained, are more prone to localized flooding than permeable soil.

Susan Bell lives down the street from Pomeroy and widened her driveway when her family moved in 15 years ago.

“People love living here but are getting frustrated because they are getting tickets,” Bell said.

“It’s your home. You’ve paid a lot of money for it. You want to be able to park in your driveway.”

The city held a meeting in December with uptown residents about parking and Bell pushed staff to come up with a short-term fix immediately.

A few weeks later, the city decided said it would temporarily allow overnight parking in Bell’s area, which she says has helped some residents avoid parking tickets. Residents can get overnight parking on some streets if the majority of the neighbourhood signs a petition, but it’s determined on a block-by-block basis.

Bell is skeptical a long-term solution exists without going back in time and building bigger.

That’s what happens when you build a neighbourhood differently from the rest of the city, Lancaster said.

“We need to try and correct some of those things and find ways of working with it.”

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