'No Parking' on grass disputed in Stevensville

Stevensville Village Council trustees are still trying to decide whether to allow parking on the grass along this section of St. Joseph Avenue north of John Beers Road. They are expected to talk about it at their Aug. 14 meeting.

STEVENSVILLE — The debate endures on whether to continue to allow parking on the grass along a section of St. Joseph Avenue in the village of Stevensville.

Trustees decided Wednesday to delay making a decision until their Aug. 14 meeting because three of the seven trustees were absent and they had just received information from their attorney. Trustees will hold a workshop at 5:45 p.m. before the regular meeting, which starts at 7 p.m. The public is invited to both meetings.

At issue is the section of the avenue north of John Beers Road. About 20 houses on the east side of the road are in the village, with the rest in Lincoln Township and not affected. On the west side is a grassy area leading to railroad tracks. Much of the west side is lined with mature trees, with new trees planted recently to fill in the gaps.

Trustees approved erecting “No Parking” signs this spring to protect the grass and newly planted trees. They said they were protecting that stretch of road, which is one of the gateways into the village.

They said cars parking on the grass have been creating ruts, especially when the ground is wet. In addition, they said the cars are in the way when village workers want to mow the area and have already killed one of the newly planted trees.

But at their June meeting, residents complained that they need that area for temporary parking when they have guests or rummage sales because their driveways are small and there is no other place to park. People can’t park on the street in front of their houses because the shoulder is too narrow.

One resident said she’s had people park in the grass for more than 40 years with no problems. In addition, residents said the parking space is needed when the village has special events such as the Memorial Day parade.

Trustees voted in June to temporarily take the signs down while they gathered more information.

One resident, a retired Michigan State Police trooper, said in June that a traffic control survey needs to be done or the “No Parking” signs are unenforceable.

Village Clerk Tiffany Moore said during Wednesday’s workshop that the village’s attorney told her that is not true.

“We own our streets,” she said. “Whatever he said does not relate to us because those are county and highway streets he was talking about.”

During the workshop, they said they have several options, including:

• enforce no parking on the grass at all times,

• put the signs up and cover them during special village events so people can park there,

• allow people to park on grass at only certain times and

• widen the paved shoulder so people can park on the shoulder and don’t have to park on the grass.

Trustee Pat Arter said widening the shoulder is her favorite option, but it’s too costly.

Moore said the village, which has no police force, can appoint someone to give out citations to people who park on the grass. In addition, she said local law enforcement officers have to enforce the village’s ordinances. 

No residents were at the workshop, but several showed up for the regular meeting. The parking issue was not on the agenda but was discussed because the residents were there. 

Michele Blahnik, who lives along that section of St. Joseph Avenue, said residents want to be involved in deciding what is done with that grassy area.

“We do appreciate the signs being taken down before the garage sales started,” she said. “That was really nice. Thank you.”

Arter said they appreciate talking to the residents.

“Your input means a ton to us,” she said. “Ultimately, we have to be the deciders.”

President Steve Slavicek said the trustees are trying to figure out what’s best for everyone. 

In other business, trustees approved:

• hiring Maner Costerisan in Lansing to do the village’s audit,

• an ordinance regulating small cell wireless facilities and

• prohibiting marijuana businesses in the village.

Contact: lwrege@TheHP.com, 932-0361, Twitter: @HPWrege