An aerial view of the City of Buckhannon's Dec. 3 Christmas Parade / Drone photo by Brian Bergstrom

City council considers banning parking along parade routes during parades following Waukesha, Wisconsin incident

BUCKHANNON – Buckhannon City Council on Thursday voted to approve directing its city attorney to modify the city’s parking ordinance to prohibit parking along parade routes during scheduled parades.

During the Dec. 16 Buckhannon City Council meeting, Buckhannon mayor Robbie Skinner said he had had conversations with city recorder Randy Sanders, city attorney Tom O’Neill and police chief Matt Gregory about an idea that would address the issue of vehicles parking along parade routes during parades.

“We have been receiving some complaints about vehicles being parked on parade routes when we have parades,” Skinner explained. “It is in light of what took place up in Wisconsin with someone driving through a parade. It might be pertinent for us to consider putting some teeth into our existing ordinance structure which can fall under the parking ordinance – modified, of course – to help us better enforce having no cars parked along a parade route when a parade is ready to come down the street.”

Skinner said Buckhannon only has a few parades a year, including about four parades during the West Virginia Strawberry Festival, a Veterans Day parade, a Buckhannon-Upshur High School Homecoming parade and a citywide Christmas parade. The most recent of those parades occurred Friday, Dec. 3 when the Buckhannon Fire Department sponsored the City of Buckhannon’s annual Christmas parade.

“During the Veterans Day Parade, the City Christmas Parade and the Homecoming Parade, vehicles parked on the street has become kind of an issue,” Skinner explained. “We put up signs asking for folks not to park on Main Street during a parade, but we, as of right now, do not have any teeth within an ordinance structure to enforce, legally, [the removal of] vehicles. This is something I wanted to open the discussion for tonight. Mr. O’Neill has a great idea as to how we can easily make this part of our ordinance structure.”

O’Neill recommended Ordinance 447, the city’s Downtown Parking Enforcement Ordinance, be amended, and said he could add a provision stating there would no parking permitted on any street in the city limits that is along a designated parade route. The city attorney said prohibiting parking along the route one hour prior to a parade stepping off seemed an appropriate solution.

“Those parade routes have to be filed [and] permitted here at City Hall, so we know the parade routes for each parade,” O’Neill said. “There would be no parking permitted on those streets 60 minutes prior to the posted start time of the parade, subject to the possibility of a vehicle that is there … being towed at its owner’s expense.”

“It is a relatively straightforward fix,” the city attorney added. “It gives the city, the parking officer and the police department the ability to enforce its no parking rules on a parade route.”

O’Neill said this step comes in light of the events that took place in southeastern Wisconsin recently. The ‘incident in Wisconsin’ refers to a Nov. 21 Christmas Parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin when an SUV drove through a crowded Christmas parade, killing at least five spectators and injuring nearly 50 other people, according to reports from the Associated Press and multiple media outlets.

“It is a matter of public safety now to eliminate the possibility that something could happen,” O’Neill said. “That would be my recommended fix if council were to want to take that up.”

Councilman CJ Rylands asked how motorists would be notified of the ordinance.

“Well, the signs generally go up 24 hours before the parade time,” O’Neill answered. “There will be a notice, and if you amend the ordinance, those signs will include a warning that any vehicles that are on the street after the time that is designated on the sign, are liable to be towed at the owner’s expense.”

“I do feel this is a matter of public safety,” Skinner chimed in. “I do believe Mr. O’Neill’s suggestion is the best way to move forward with this.”

Sanders said when the most recent Christmas Parade had started, he was on the corner of Spring and Main Streets when he observed a vehicle leaving the parade route after the parade had started.

“There were about half a dozen vehicles parked on Main Street,” Sanders said. “Prior to the parade coming onto Main Street, a vehicle started up and took off, leaving Main Street very quickly. It mortified me when I realized any driver could come and hop in their car and start moving it.”

Rylands made a motion to direct O’Neill, the city attorney, to draft a modification to the city parking ordinance already in place. Councilman Dave Thomas seconded the motion and council voted unanimously to approve the draft.

The most recently revised version of the city’s parking ordinance may be viewed on the city’s website here.

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