An ordinance allowing residents living within 2,500 feet of a school building to request parking be prohibited on their street during the school day is heading back to the Carmel City Council with a positive recommendation from the council’s Finance, Utilities and Rules Committee.
The committee voted 3-0 in favor of the ordinance proposed by Councilor Jeff Worrell after a lengthy discussion at its Nov. 18 meeting. The council is expected to vote on the ordinance on Dec. 6.
The ordinance is largely in response to problems arising because of several changes made by Carmel Clay Schools in August that affect transportation. A bus driver shortage led to most students living within a mile of school losing bus service, which has led to more parents driving children to school. Some drivers are choosing to park on neighborhood streets to pick up students rather than go to the designated pickup area.
Many of the most problematic areas are in the neighborhoods surrounding Carmel High School, where some parents are lining narrow streets to wait for their children at the end of the school. In addition, some students are parking there for the school day, adding to the congestion.
Jeff Swensson, a former superintendent of CCS who lives near the high school, told the committee the problem is more than just an inconvenience.
“The fact that those of us who live on these streets, God forbid, may be in a medical emergency and fire or police help can’t come to us is not a matter of discretion,” Swensson told the committee.
CHS students are supposed to park at the football stadium, which is also the designated pickup spot for those riding with parents. City Councilor Tony Green, a member of the committee, said he met with several CHS students earlier in the week to discuss the problem and learned that many students don’t want to park at the stadium because of the length of time it takes to reach their car and exit the lot.
“It’s really a time crunch for those kids, where instead if they park somewhat closer to the school, they don’t get stuck with a 10-minute walk to their car as well as 30 minutes waiting to get out of the parking lot,” he said. “Now, they have a better chance of (not being late for) whatever their commitment is.”
Carmel Police Dept. Lt. Brady Myers told the committee that the transportation changes also have led to problems near Clay Middle School, where parents are picking up children along streets in the midst of other students walking home from school.
“We’re having a lot of near misses just west of where I stand at the crossing location, because drivers are trying to get out of that (area) in an expedited fashion,” Myers said.
Councilor Tim Hannon, who is not on the committee but attended the meeting, said he supports the immediate changes addressed by the ordinance but would like to see additional changes.
“(The near misses) points to the urgency to come up with at least a temporary fix, but it points out this needs to be looked at over time from a systematic standpoint,” he said.
The proposed ordinance also restricts parking in the city-owned lot on the southeast corner of 1st Ave. NE and 1st St. NE to one hour between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. and creates a two-hour parking zone on Main Street east of Range Line Road to CHS to discourage student parking.
The proposed ordinance sets a fine for the first violation at $25 followed by fines of $100 for subsequent violations. Requests to designate a street within 2,500 feet of a CCS campus would go through the city’s department of engineering and Board of Public Works for review and approval.
Residents would be permitted to display a sticker provided by CPD to exempt their vehicles from the prohibition, and they can provide temporary guest parking permits for visitors.
Although not part of the proposed ordinance, the committee also discussed how student parking could impact the Carmel Clay Public Library, which is across the street from CHS. The library campus is closed for renovations, but when it reopens in 2022, it will include a new parking garage with more than 400 spaces that CCPL Director Bob Swanay believes will be an attractive spot for CHS students to park, which would limit availability for those visiting the library.
“A lot of what we’re doing in the renovations for the library is geared toward teens,” Swanay said. “Teens are welcome to park in the library parking spots when they’re using the library. Our goal is not to exclude teen drivers, but to exclude those parking spots being used by teens attending school.”
If not addressed through an ordinance, Swanay said he expects the library to use off-duty police officers in the morning on school days to intercept students attempting to park in the garage.
Current has reached out to CCS for comment.
Committee approves procedure for removing councilors
The Carmel City Council’s Finance, Utilities and Rules Committee unanimously approved an ordinance outlining procedures for removing a councilor from office. The full council will have the final vote at a future meeting.
The proposed ordinance states that the council has the authority to expel any of its members for violation of official duty or declare the seat vacant if a council member is unable to perform the duties of office.