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Handicap parking likely to change; Middletown hasn’t taken requests for new spaces since 2015

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 8/15/18

Middletown residents haven’t been able to request a new on-street handicapped parking space in more than three years, but that could change soon.

Borough council during its Aug. 8 meeting …

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Handicap parking likely to change; Middletown hasn’t taken requests for new spaces since 2015

Posted

Middletown residents haven’t been able to request a new on-street handicapped parking space in more than three years, but that could change soon.

Borough council during its Aug. 8 meeting approved for advertisement an ordinance to revise the borough’s existing handicapped parking program — which has been suspended since March 2015.

Among proposed changes, any new handicapped parking space will be “unreserved” — meaning that any such space can be used by anyone whose vehicle displays a valid handicapped registration plate or permanent placard issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

Under existing policy, handicapped parking spaces approved by the borough were on a “reserved” basis, meaning the space could be used exclusively by the applicant.

However, this requires such spaces to be accompanied by a sign listing the license plate number of the person with exclusive rights to use the space, borough Manager Ken Klinepeter told council during discussions of the proposed changes June 19.

Reserving a space for just one person is also “cumbersome” for police to enforce, in that police must constantly monitor whether the license plate for each person parked in the space matches the plate listed on the sign, Klinepeter noted.

In doing research to come up with the proposed changes, Klinepeter told council that the proposed ordinance is modeled on ordinances governing handicapped parking spaces in other area communities, most of which do not allow for a space to be used exclusively by the applicant.

Otherwise, someone applying to the borough for a handicapped parking space at his or her residence would pay a $75 application fee, under a companion resolution that council approved during the Aug. 8 meeting.

Once granted, the applicant would be required to renew the space annually, by paying a $35 fee once a year to the borough.

Besides helping the borough recoup costs of designating the space by paint and signage, the annual fee would give the borough a way to track how many handicapped parking spaces exist, and are actually being used, throughout the town.

A major reason why a former borough codes officer back in 2015 first proposed revising the handicapped parking policy was because the borough had no idea how many spaces were being used.

In many cases the people who had been using the spaces either moved out of the borough, or have died. The applicant or someone on behalf of the applicant was supposed to notify the borough, but this seldom happened.

New handicapped parking spaces will not be automatically approved by the borough. The applicant must prove that he or she does not have access to off-street handicapped parking.

There must be enough on-street space in front of the applicant’s property to allow for providing a handicapped parking space.

If not, the applicant must provide the borough with written approval to encroach on the on-street parking area of a neighbor, according to the proposed ordinance.

“We put the onus on property owners to work it out, because we as a government don’t want to be in the middle of those fights,” Klinepeter told council.

Finally, the proposed ordinance would limit to two the number of unreserved handicapped parking spaces that can exist within any one block in the borough, regardless of whether the street is one-way or two-way.

Unreserved handicapped parking spaces in excess of this limitation that are in existence when and if council gives final approval to the proposed changes would be allowed to remain in place, subject to the annual fee and reporting requirements, according to the proposed ordinance.

Should council ultimately give final approval to an ordinance reinstating the handicapped parking program, the borough has a list of several residents who have requested a handicapped parking space, Klinepeter told the Press & Journal on Aug. 9.