Council to vote on disabled parking time limit

Shopkeepers say some stay in spaces indefinitely; seniors oppose the change

By Andrea Damewood, Columbian staff writer

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A proposed ordinance that would limit the amount of time those with disabled permits can park downtown — which raised concerns from seniors when it was proposed in March — is set for a vote by the Vancouver City Council today.

Following complaints from shopkeepers that people with disabled tags were parking indefinitely in front of their stores, city staff proposed limiting handicapped drivers to four hours in one spot, instead of the current unlimited amount of time they may stay in one place.

Currently, those with disabled permits may park anywhere (except reserved spaces) for as long as they like, for free. Under the proposal, those at a spot longer than four hours without paying would be fined $15 for an expired meter, or possibly $18 for overtime parking, with those fees doubling after 30 days.

The ordinance does not address abuse of disabled permits, which is enforced by the state.

However, residents of Lewis and Clark Plaza — a 46-unit housing project for low-income seniors at 621 Broadway — protested the move, saying they need to park their cars on the street by the front doors. The building has no parking; residents can pay $75 per month to park across the street in the garage that also serves the Regal Cinemas on C Street. But residents said that the garage is too expensive, too far and too dangerous.

Residents there have lobbied the council through emails and phone calls to keep disabled spots open for unlimited use.

It’s unclear what direction the city council will take today, following public comment. Members said in March they would agree to move the ordinance to a public hearing, but they wanted to hear more from drivers and business owners.

“We’ll put it to a public hearing, listen to our citizens and to our community on what they think about the proposed changes,” Mayor Tim Leavitt said.

State law allows cities to impose time limits on handicapped parking, and sets four hours as the minimum amount of time a city must allow permitted people to park there for free. A few other cities, including Spokane and Bremerton, have placed four-hour time limits on handicapped parking. The boundary of the new four-hour time limit zone would be from Fourth Plain Boulevard on the north to the Columbia River on the south, and from Lincoln Avenue on the west to Interstate 5 on the east.

Andrea Damewood: 360-735-4542, andrea.damewood@columbian.com or http://twitter.com/col_cityhall.