Flossmoor officials, unable to make cars smaller or streets bigger, are seeking to restrict parking to one side of most residential by-ways in the village.
It’s all a matter of public safety, they say. The mathematics of Flossmoor streets, and the vehicles that traverse them, point toward alarming situations in which fire trucks, police cars and snow plows cannot get where they need to go during emergency situations.
“We’re not getting through,” Flossmoor Fire Chief Chris Sewell said this week. “We have had to back up fire trucks and take a different route to respond to emergencies.”
Mayor Paul Braun is asking the village board to restrict most residential parking to one side of the street. Board members will discuss the proposal at their July 6 and 20 meetings, and are likely to vote on the ban early in August. Monday’s village board meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. at the village hall, 2800 Flossmoor Road.
The parking ban would go into effect Oct. 1, at which time the police department would begin issuing warning citations. Tickets would be issued in earnest beginning Dec. 1.
The H-F Chronicle met Monday with Village Manager Bridget Wachtel, Sewell, Police Chief Michael Pulec and Public Works Director John Brunke. All support the proposed ban, which they say is supported by a year’s worth of research on how to best keep residents safe on village streets that appear smaller as vehicles continue to get larger.
Under the proposed ban, parking on most streets will be restricted to the non-hydrant side. In addition, parking will not be allowed on any village streets after a two-inch snowfall.
Exceptions are allowed, mostly for schools, churches and park areas. Areas with signs regulating parking around Heather Hill, Western Avenue, and Flossmoor Hills schools would continue to operate with the signage that has already been established to accommodate school drop-off and pick-up. In some cases, that means parking would be allowed on the hydrant side of the street.
Parking around churches and parks will continue to be regulated by the current regulations and existing signs.
Parking in downtown Flossmoor will mostly remain unchanged. Several streets in the center of Flossmoor have time limit parking designed to prevent commuters from parking on village streets all day. Those time limits will still apply on those streets but there will be no parking on the non-hydrant side.
Parking on private streets — such as Hampton Court, Acorn Lane and within the Baythorne and Chestnut Hills subdivisions – will not be affected by the new ordinance.
Wachtel said the parking ban was first proposed following the especially brutal winter of 2013-14; heavy snows that year made it difficult for snowplows to clear village streets and for other emergency vehicles to respond to calls. Village board members asked the department heads to return with an updated proposal after they had done more research.
Some Flossmoor streets are no more than 16 feet wide. SUVs are typically eight feet wide and, Sewell said, fire trucks are much larger than they used to be, measuring 10 feet from mirror to mirror. The village’s snowplows, usually mounted on dump trucks, are also 10 feet wide.
“When you think about the issue in those terms, it is much easier to visualize that a fire truck and often police cars aren’t going to get past two vehicles parked side by side on village streets,” Sewell said.
In warm-weather months, lawn service vehicles also make it more difficult for emergency vehicles to get to their destination, he said.
In 2014, the Flossmoor police department responded to 7,927 calls and the fire department to 1,452 calls.
The snow parking ban will allow public works employees to remove snow more safely and efficiently, the officials said. It is also expected to reduce the number of times plows need to go through the village to complete snow removal since they will not have to plow around cars or wait for them to be moved before clearing a street. The snow ban is also designed to reduce overtime, fuel consumption, vehicle engine hours and resident complaints.
”We are hoping that residents just won’t park their cars on the streets if they know that a two-inch snowfall is coming,” Wachtel said.
The officials said they know that the success of the parking ban depends on the village telling residents why it is needed and important to Flossmoor. The two months between October when new signs are to be posted — and December, when the first citations will be issued, is seen as an education period during which the village reminds residents that the new parking rules are in effect.
Residents will learn more about the parking changes via the village e-newsletter, newsletter, website, news media, a postcard mailing, social media and at a booth at Flossmoor Fest.
Contact Tom Houlihan at [email protected]