Watchdog: ‘No parking rules’ enforced without warning

But county officials say alleys are private property

April 25, 2010

The problem: Parking in Baltimore County alleys is not allowed, but there are no signs to warn drivers.

The back story: Steve Tobias says he doesn't want to be rudely awakened anymore.

He and other residents along Berkshire Road, off North Point Road in eastern Baltimore County, have received letters in the mail warning them that vehicles parked in the alleys behind their homes would be ticketed.

But trash collection recently ceased in the alley behind his Berkshire Road home for as long as three weeks when garbage trucks could not enter because of vehicles blocking access.

Some days, drivers of garbage trucks loudly honked their horns for long periods of time early in the morning, apparently in an attempt to rouse owners of obstructing vehicles.

Tobias wants to know why county officials haven't installed "no parking" signs on the block to inform drivers — some of whom might be visitors or people new to the area — that they should not be parking there.

"There's so many people coming and going," Tobias said. "Who knows who's going to be out there tomorrow?"

Baltimore County Councilman John Olszewski Sr., who represents the area, said that this has particularly been a problem in the Berkshire area. He has worked with police, who first issued warning tickets to offenders. "It seems like it's just a few people causing the problems for other people," he said.

But they have tried to educate the public through local media and neighborhood groups.

"We've been trying to get the word out," he said. "Common sense says if you've got a trash truck coming on Wednesday morning, don't park in the alley."

David Fidler, spokesman for Baltimore County's Department of Public Works, said it's not possible for county workers to install signs in this area.

He conferred with officials in both traffic and solid-waste management and learned that alleys are privately owned, and therefore the county cannot install signs there.

However, because the alleys are used by garbage collectors as well as emergency vehicles, Baltimore County law states that they cannot be obstructed.

The unobstructed area can't be less than 12 feet wide, Fidler said. "When we can't get trucks through, it's a problem. It's a health problem, it's a service problem," he said.

However, "we can't do anything about the lack of signs," Fidler said. "The community could put signs up on their own."

Who can fix this: To report a car blocking a Baltimore County alley or any other nonemergency problem, call Baltimore County police at 410-887-2222.

— Liz F. Kay

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