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Snow Emergency Ticketing is Unfair - There are Better Solutions

Snow emergency ticketing in Royal Oak unfairly targets the city’s unlanded and less affluent inhabitants. Those who have driveways and garages can park in them, but for those without parking on the street may be the only option. The expensive tickets - $50 if paid right away, $100 if not paid within 72 hours – punish people with the fewest resources the most.

The ticketing system is flawed because the only ways to avoid a ticket are to have a driveway to park in, or to have official residency at the place one currently resides. People renting homes may not have changed their official residence to their current home, and it isn’t clear on the snow emergency permit if the city considers a letter from a landlord proof of residency. To apply for a permit costs $25 dollars, or around 4 hours of labor for someone making minimum wage. The permitting process may also require presence at the City Clerk’s office, which is only open from 8:00am to 4:30pm Monday through Thursday and only until noon on Friday. Not exactly convenient hours for a student or someone working full time.

The motivation behind the tickets – to get people off the streets to facilitate ploughing- is sound. But ticketing is unnecessarily punitive - no one is excited to park on the street in a snowstorm. It means getting ploughed in and spending a morning scraping and shovelling snow to free a vehicle in order to get to work. But many people do not have an alternative. If the community wants to get cars of the street in a snowstorm it must begin providing other options for people without driveways and garages who may not have residency or the time, finances, and forethought to acquire a permit before an emergency. When a snowstorm is approaching news outlets need to be informing citizens where they can put cars to be out of the snowplough’s way.

Possibilities include opening up parking structures typically closed overnight to residents, especially in the downtown area, where there are more renters fewer homes with driveways. OCC’s parking structure, or the parking structure for the unused townhouses on Washington, might open up when a snow emergency is expected or announced. This solution still begs the question of how residents and renters will get home – a shuttle? Friendly neighbours? – but is at a minimum a better solution than forcing renters to stay overnight elsewhere or condemning them to exorbitant fees.

The city’s permit application can be found here

Snow emergency ordinance maximum fine

Image from here

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Sherry Lane January 26, 2014 at 08:42 AM
extra loot... lol
TJO January 26, 2014 at 08:56 AM
Do away with the permits altogether. When there is a snow emergency GET OFF THE STREET. Why is that so hard to understand. Put the Starbucks down, Shut off the ipad and stop thinking about yourself for 10 min if possible. Because of these people who won't move their cars (who all have driveways) you can hardly fit down the street. And God forbid an emergency vehicle needs to get to someone on our street. Just yesterday a friend stopped by and asked "Why doesn't Royal Oak plow the streets?"
Jeanne January 26, 2014 at 09:14 AM
On Dec 15 we had an unprecedented 2,500 tickets written. Without notice to its citizens, the city changed it's way of conducting business in a single night. Could the city have done this all a bit differently? The ordinance as written only allows a permit to park in show emergencies if one is without a driveway. I did learn when I chose to take my tickets to court that I too could request an exemption even though I have a driveway. Why isn't this in the ordinance? There are at times unusual circumstances especially in the south end where we have numerous buildings approved by the city that do not have decent parking. A change in the ordinance is needed. Now our officers and the courts are bogged down with the after effects. In court I learned my officer alone has over 60 tickets being challenged. This means he's in court for each case and is either doing this activity instead of his normal routine or is earning several hours overtime EACH time he's there. If this is a money grab, it's one of the stupidest I've ever seen. Factor in the officer's time and the court's time and it's hard for me to call this a success.
Levi Jensen January 26, 2014 at 11:05 AM
The most logical and polite solution is for the city to announce a detailed plow schedule following any snow emergency (much like the leaf removal schedule). That way, rather than banning residents from parking in front of their home for 3-4 days, residents would know that the plow would hit their street between 6:00am - 12:00am on the second day of the snow emergency. on a previous patch post, a DPS guy admitted that it takes the same amount of time to plow a street whether there is 3" or a foot of snow, so they should be able to follow a schedule pretty easily. reducing the amount of time that residents are in danger of receiving a $50 ticket would be very helpful. there is no reason the ordinance should have to be enforced in the north end of the city when the trucks are only hitting the south end of the city that day.
Wm. Allen January 26, 2014 at 01:09 PM
I believe K. Scott said it best in the very first comment: "Move your car off the street. No ticket, it's not hard."
Rat Haven January 26, 2014 at 02:50 PM
Kate, the homeowners are being flooded with new taxes all the time, taxes for roads, taxes for this, taxes for that, the city doesn't have money for shuttle busses. People that rent, there is usually 3 or more in a home which means 3 or more vehicles and they have friends which adds more vehicles per home. If you rent you need to figure out where you can park in advance. If you ask a neighbor to share their drive perhaps you could shovel for them in return. I'm glad the city is finally ticketing and making some extra money because parking in the street causes a hardship on everyone. Not just for homeowners not getting plowed or the guys plowing but especially for those trying to drive down the road in bad conditions.
MJ January 26, 2014 at 05:31 PM
The title of this article is to discuss "UNFAIR" ticketing and solutions - not complain about lazy people, etc. I feel completely let down by the city and the snow emergency policy. The snow emergency my two kids received tickets for was declared on Wednesday, January 1st. They received their tickets around 7am Friday morning, January 3rd. After receiving the tickets I went and read the ordinance and it says 24-36 hours but later in the description it did state or until the road is plowed. When my kids are home from college over winter break, I can not fit all 5 cars into my 3 car driveway. When a snow emergency is declared we end up parking 2 cars down the block in an apartment complex to keep the cars off the street. We did this on Wednesday and all day Thursday. Both kids went out Thursday night and came home around 4am Friday morning. Since the city didn't plow our street by Thursday night, I went out at 10pm and cleared the street in front of my house for parking, took me over an hour. When my daughter came home Friday morning (4am) she figured the spot was clear and surely the snow emergency was over by now. My son came home shortly there after and even came in and had a discussion with his sister if it was okay to park in the street. Apparently their conclusion was wrong as they received tickets later Friday morning. Our street was finally plowed around noon or so on Friday. My daughter sent in a letter explaining the situation and adding being a broke college student and all but was still told she had to pay the fine. I am upset with several issues about this being a 30 year plus resident ... my street wasn't plowed in a timely matter (Berkley had their streets all plowed on Thursday, it looked like night and day compared to Royal Oak streets), I went out and cleared my own street frontage and piled the snow 2 feet high on my curbside (no charge to the city), and the lack of leniency for a first time offense with an explanation. There were many cars (prob 10-12) out on our street as it is typical that the plow misses our street anyhow. BTW, the plow never did come back a second time and do a decent job clearing the road. Am I allowed to fine the city for untimely or even lack of service when it comes to plowing snow?
John Davids January 26, 2014 at 07:06 PM
I agree with Kate, people who accuse others of being "lazy" are missing the point that, if they don't have a driveway, there may be no place they can move their car. We live on an alley and face the issue all the time, we have no place to put our cars besides on the street.
Patience January 26, 2014 at 07:45 PM
Believe it or not there are other options besides try to find a place to put your car or get a ticket if you park in the street. If you are lacking in adequate parking for your vehicle and the only place you can park is on the street, then you can go down to the police department and get a special permit. For those who do not understand the city's ordinance on snow emergencies and parking here is the link to the city's website that can clarify anything you need to know about the issue. http://www.ci.royal-oak.mi.us/portal/departments/public-service/highway/snow-emergency-information
John Davids January 26, 2014 at 07:56 PM
Thanks Patience. We do have the permits for our cars. We purchased them last year.
Michael S. January 26, 2014 at 11:34 PM
I think it could be more beneficial for everyone if the city did something along the lines of offering the first permit to a residence free and any additional permits they could charge extra for. of course there is still the issue of filling out the application and getting it to the appropriate office during the hours of operation. All of this really comes down to generating revenue for the city. 2000 tickets if all paid in a timely manner equals 100,000 dollars.
Ed Callahan January 27, 2014 at 05:34 AM
Unfair? Every house in Royal Oak with the exception of maybe a few has a driveway. If you live in an apartment, you should have a parking lot. I think the problem stems from the fact that Royal Oak has seen a proliferation of single family homes become rentals. These homes are very often rented by young adults that split the rent and you will frequently see three or four adults living in the house. I have two such examples as neighbors. Each house has four adults with vehicles splitting the rent. I always have one of their cars parked in front of my house, and if the city plows the street, I would have to shovel beyond the front of their vehicle to clear my drive. And I would also like to mention how I had to bag my leaves this year because one of their cars was parked in front of my house when they collected the leaves from the street. So I my response to your complaint is simply to say “Tuff Luck”, take some responsibility for your actions. And I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Royal Oak PD for clearing the vehicles from my street during the last heavy snowfall, great job and keep up the good work.
Jeanne January 27, 2014 at 06:59 AM
Ed: On my immediate block there are 3 homes without driveways and a 40 plus senior assisted living facility that was recently approved by the city with about a dozen parking spots in the back. A block or two further is the Christian Science church with no parking lot and 2 5 story apartment buildings without parking lots. This does not include the house rentals or households with multiple drivers.
Carme January 27, 2014 at 08:20 AM
K Scott The city of Royal Oak will not let a person widen his/her driveway
K. Scott January 27, 2014 at 08:40 AM
We live in Berkley. We did widen our driveway but you would need to know what our situation is to make a comment.We still have snow emergencies and we can't park on the street from 2am-6am everyday.
Bob January 27, 2014 at 09:24 AM
Cries of unfair and laziness often walk hand in hand. We are all in this together and you, Kate Kelley, must do your part. We are all clearing snow daily, spending way too much of our lives in traffic on an icy road and just plain losing sleep. Shuttles? Are you kidding? Use your two legs! This me seem harsh and unfair, but it really is not. It is just. Really, this post and the following comments make me smile. It means the city is finally getting serious about this issue and is taking action. It stinks when someone parks in front of your house or your neighbors house and you are left with the mess.
Bob January 27, 2014 at 09:26 AM
Good post Ed. Thank you for including the leaf example.
Sherry Lane January 27, 2014 at 09:43 AM
and @ todd... Is that whinning I hear from you too..maybe you should learn the rules of the city.. and picking your kids up from school... just saying.. maybe you should have checked your post before posting it cuz I'm hearing a lot of whine from you
Theresa Erickson January 27, 2014 at 02:26 PM
I thought Kate's post was excellent and I hoped it would educate the city administration. I can't believe all the mean spirited people who can't comprehend that not everyone owns a house with a driveway--not just a few either. Bob, how dare you suggest walking home from a parking structure in sub zero temps. Have you done it? For me it would be a mile and a half. Remember, we are a city where businesses and homeowners are not required to shovel their sidewalks. Many businesses, vacant homes and vacant lots have not been cleared all winter. To suggest that renters are a problem in this city is short-sighted. Would you rather have vacant homes? Our whole neighborhood suffered almost 9 months with drug-dealing squatters in a vacant home. We would have much preferred renters. To suggest that all renters are young is naive. I know many people over 55 who lost homes to foreclosure and now rent--sometimes only a room in a home. To suggest everyone who has no driveway is young and lazy, as Col. John does, is extremely insulting. My husband and I are over 55 and do our best to keep the car off the street during snow emergencies, but it is definitely not easy and we pay a fine almost every year. By the way, there was no Snow Emergency ordinance until 1992--years after we bought our home. No one likes leaves or snow left in the street because of cars, but like Kate, I believe the city should be cooperative. Why not offer free parking in the structures or lots--maybe only to residents and guests with a FREE permit. I have to believe that a ton of snow means less people are patronizing the businesses anyway. The folks at DPS are trying to allow public access to a map of the plowing schedule and I really hope that works. It is very difficult to carry groceries a distance when you can't park in front of your house for 3 days. As long as we're on the topic of young and old residents...Royal Oak has spent a lot of our money to rebrand itself trying to attract more residents, especially young ones. So why do city offices have hours that make them accessible only for retirees who are home during the day? Why can't more business be handled via the internet?
Bob January 27, 2014 at 04:10 PM
Thank you Theresa, and yes, I dare. After parking your car away for the snow emergency, get a ride or walk home. We have to offer shuttles now? Preposterous! Yes, I have walked miles in this type of weather. I'll tell you what is unfair. It's unfair that we have to put up with self centered derelicts parking in the street during snow emergencies and leaf pickup. It's unfair that we have to deal with neighbors that rake their leaves into the street AFTER the truck comes through. It's unfair that we have to listen to unfair about this stuff. Remember to think positive after reading all this. We are all in this together. Smiles everyone, smiles.
K. Scott January 27, 2014 at 04:47 PM
Theresa, I don't think the renters are so short sighted, maybe just not thinking ahead. We just raised taxes in Berkley last year to keep our roads cleared and leaves picked up. I think that some responsibility lies with the landlords that don't have enough parking for their properties and maybe they should pick up some of the tab for the parking permits. The landlords should know the rules and advise the tenants of how many parking spaces the property has what the renter must do when having more cars then what is allotted for that property. Hamtramck is much worse in the winter for renters, I think everyone needs to do their homework before deciding where to live,
Theresa Erickson January 27, 2014 at 05:01 PM
I didn't mean to imply that renters are short-sighted. I just meant don't blame the renters and don't discourage them from living in Royal Oak--we need them to help fill the vacant homes. Some of the blame goes to the zoning board or whichever board gives the ok to new buildings and businesses. It seems like they often waive some of the parking space requirements. One example is the former furniture store next to Frentz. Another is giving public parking spaces to Vectorform which plans to move into the Borders location. I'm not anti-progress, but parking space needs are calculated for a good reason. Deciding to waive the rules doesn't create more spaces, it just ignores an increasing problem which impacts current and future residents and visitors to our city.
Rat Haven January 27, 2014 at 05:16 PM
Well now that were on the subject of new buildings, we have 40 foot lots, giant homes being built, no green space, just concrete and a home. You know there will be a husband and a wife and 2.2 kids so where do they all park? Yes the blame goes to the zoning board. It's a increasing problem is right. Not anti progress either but parking space needs to be calculated is right.
K. Scott January 27, 2014 at 05:36 PM
Theresa, I didn't mean to give you that impression. I didn't think that was what you were saying. That aside, what I do think is that some planing needs to be done. I live right next to RO and I know why everyone is up in arms. Like I said we just raised our taxes to have the level of service we have,ouch.Parking is more problematic with giant piles of snow taking away more spots,but the DPW can only move the stuff so far and you lose a couple of spaces here and there in lots and around the neighborhoods until the thaw.Compound that with the fact that there are self absorbed people that will do what they will, the public and everyone can go fly a kite. I don't believe the author of the article is in that category. I just think that there was enough thought given to the what if's beforehand.
MJ January 27, 2014 at 10:06 PM
To add to this topic, there is a mixture of uncaring and lazy people and certainly there are some thoughtful, good people getting caught up in a situation that has not been 100% figured out (the snow emergency ordinance). Idiots like Bob throwing out blanket statements is not helping a discussion and would hopefully keep his opinions of what others should do to himself unless he has gone to every house in RO and document the situation. There are certain neighborhoods where the ordinance almost hold the residents hostage as they are at the mercy of the plow trucks. There are issues such as timely city services (due to budgets\overtime, the plow trucks were not sent out or limited Jan. 1st yet the snow emergency was declared). How many times our block has been missed for plowing over the years where I did have my cars off the street only to never see results, yet no fine to the city. Why did it takes 3 days to plow streets when Berkley was all clear in 24 hours? I also believe the ticketing was a money maker as a motivator and nothing to do with concerned citizens and clearing neighborhoods. A knock on the door would have been effective in removing cars and letting people know there are plow trucks on the way. If no one is reached, then write tickets. We pay for dedicated meter maids, certainly they could have been utilized for this task? Solutions are out there, not just complainers and money makers.
Sherry Lane January 28, 2014 at 06:24 AM
R.O. has pulled a couple of shifty ones in the past year.. the dog licensing.. and the snow emergency... looks like they have some extra money in the kitty..USE IT WISELY !!!!
Bob January 28, 2014 at 08:50 AM
Idiots? MJ, your post is ridiculous with all that whining. You are still harping on how long it took to plow streets from the storms? The city did a great job with the street plowing during these storms. The storm of Jan. 1 lasted into the evening. I tried to wait it out at my friends house in Pontiac till 1:30 AM Jan 2. I-75 was still snow covered at that time. Think about it MJ. I-75 is still snow covered and you are complaining that Royal Oak DPS wasn't on residential streets by then? I am certainly critical of how they handled the dog licensing and sidewalk issues Sherry, but that is not part of this discussion. We are all in this together. Everything takes more time and is more difficult right now. Stop piling on with negativity. Put on a smile in the face of this frigid season.
Levi Jensen January 28, 2014 at 01:17 PM
I'm telling you, the issue would be MUCH less of an issue if there was a district-related plow schedule, and ticket enforcement followed the same schedule. Surely DPS has some idea how long it will take to clear each district, they have had to do it several times this year alone! Cut the city into sections that take 6 hours to clear of snow, then enforce the ordinance in those sections for those 6 hours! It doesn't get any fairer than that. No reason (other than sticking it to people and money grabbing) to ticket people for parking on a street that won't be plowed for days!
Katelyn Johnston January 28, 2014 at 02:12 PM
In Chicago (which has a much larger street parking population) if you leave your car on the street after 2 inches of snow you're ticketed. There's no instructions/help/empty structures. If you park on the street it's just something you need to be aware and responsible for.
MJ February 02, 2014 at 01:29 PM
Bob, you are an idiot, reading comprehension is not your strong point. I wrote that the snow emergency was declared and that the trucks were not out on Jan. 1st, I said it, please read (so of course the city and I-75 were snow covered, nothing to think about?). Please read Bob, point coming here ... The city declared an emergency that put people on the clock to get off the streets - this created a burden to certain people and certain neighborhoods that lasted 3 days, not all people and all neighborhoods. The complaint is not about when the DPS hit the pavement. The complaint is about how the city handled the snow emergency ticket situation. I believe the city jumped on the "Let's make a buck" situation, again. My neighborhood was plowed Friday for a snowfall that happened Wednesday - not happy about that but at least we were plowed. Big deal was the lack of forgiveness by the city for some tickets. Levi has a great solution, a schedule (recommend Bob go back and read Levi's post again). So people know when to get off the streets and then if a car is left out, boom, you get a ticket. Not play the 3 day waiting game and guess when or if the plow trucks are coming (hence my hostage quip)? And by the way, I said by Thursday Berkley was clear, why did it take 24 hours longer for Royal Oak? Yes were are a bigger city but we also have 2 to 3 times more trucks.

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