Winter's over, but Federal Hill drivers are still frosted

April 05, 1994|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,Sun Staff Writer

The icy memories of winter remain frozen in the minds of some Federal Hill residents who are fighting parking tickets they believe an officer should have kept in his book.

Many of them are fighting tickets they received for parking too far away from sidewalks when city curbsides were piled with snow pushed aside by plows in the depths of winter.

One city police officer dutifully -- cruelly, if you ask residents -- spent three hours in the early morning of Feb. 16 writing tickets for illegally parked vehicles.

"It was outrageous," said Chuck J. Morton, president of the Federal Hill Neighborhood Association. "We would have hoped a city police officer would have been doing something other than blanketing the community with parking tickets during those hours."

Officer Frank Linsenmeyer wrote at least 40 tickets between 12:30 a.m. and 3:30 a.m. Feb. 16, according to residents, just when the troublesome combination of snow and ice from precipitation a week earlier was starting to melt.

Snowplows had pushed the icy mixture -- left over from snow and heavy sleet that had fallen on Baltimore streets during a storm on Feb. 10-11 -- from the middle of the streets to the curbs, making it impossible for cars to park within 12 inches of sidewalks, as the law requires. Those ticketed had parked next to the ice piles.

Maj. Robert L. DiStefano, commander of the Police Department's Southern District, said he could not fault the police officer because his actions were correct technically.

"It's a very unfortunate situation," Major DiStefano said, "but the law was, in fact, violated. And the reason for ticketing is that you cannot obstruct the passage of emergency vehicles through the street. You can't just park three to four feet away from the curb because snow is there."

He said he could not rescind the tickets. Because of the incident, however, officers in his district have been required to gain approval from supervisors before blanketing an area with tickets, he said.

Ian H. Neuman, president-elect of the neighborhood association, has taken pictures of the streets where the officer distributed tickets in an effort to assist residents fighting their cases in court. He said some residents have opted to pay tickets ranging from $20 to $52 but others will sacrifice half a day to argue their cases in District Court.

Councilman Nicholas C. D'Adamo Jr., D-1st, predicted that Federal Hill residents who go to court will get sympathy from judges.

"The tickets never should have been issued," Mr. D'Adamo said. "It's called common sense."

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