Intuition as well as parking skills are needed to visit Carlson’s Body Shop in Ottawa.
There’s nothing saying a motorist can’t park in the choice spot by the body shop’s front door: no signs or curb coloring.
Instead, visitors need to know that without the white street lines that denote legal street parking spaces, the front door spot is just a parking ticket waiting to happen.
After 40 years at his location on Main Street, owner Gary Carlson is more than a little ticked about that.
“The parking down here on Main Street is totally out of control as far as ticketing,” Carlson said.
“In the last two-and-a-half weeks there have been five tickets in front of my business for five different things — and none of them were overdue parking,” he said.
Carlson cited some examples.
“We had a customer drop off a car last week,” he said. “He came in the office and handed us the keys and we went out within five minutes. My manager said ‘I’m moving this right now’ and (the parking enforcement officer) said ‘Too late, we’ve already got you,’ and gave him a ticket. It’s ridiculous that in front of my business that I can’t have somebody drop a car off.”
In another case, Carlson said a contractor doing work on his building got a ticket for parking with his trailer across the driveway entrance to the shop.
“I think it’s my right to block my own driveway,” Carlson said.
Similarly, even one of the city’s truck’s was ticketed.
“A meter reader was coming by and they were kind of parked in my driveway a little bit and got a ticket,” Carlson said.
An auto glass company truck was ticketed for parking on the sidewalk in front of Carlson’s.
Actually, he said, the truck was parked on the curb, which is level with the street after repeated repavings.
Carlson appealed the ticket to the city’s hearing officer, but was shut down, he said.
“There wasn’t any chance,” he said. “I showed him a photo the wheel on the curb and he confirmed it was a violation.”
That was not Carlson’s only complaint.
“I’ve gone to the police station and complained,” he said. “I’ve been to City Hall three times.”
Carlson said he has been scolded “a couple of times” by the parking enforcement officer and a discussion “did not end well” with Public Health and Safety Commissioner Tom Ganiere.
He also has voiced his concerns to Mayor Bob Eschbach and Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce and Industry Executive Director Boyd Palmer.
“But nobody seems to be able to do anything,” Carlson said. “There’s no common sense. There’s no rhyme nor reason. It just isn’t right to hassle business owners.”
Ganiere confirmed the lack of designated parking space lines is why tickets are being issued to people parking at the shop’s front door.
He said he has asked Public Improvements Commissioner James Less to determine if there is enough space to designate a parking spot.
“I don’t know if there really enough room for a parking spot there or not,” Ganiere said. “I kind of think there could be.”
The ticket to the water meter reader was justified, he said.
“We can’t show favoritism to our employees,” Ganiere said. “How would that look to the public?”
But Eschbach felt differently about a new parking violations crackdown.
“It’s ridiculous,” he said. “And you can quote me.”
Recent parking ordinance changes, including prohibiting parking on white lines, should have been introduced with a week of warning leaflets to violators before ticketing commenced.
Eschbach questioned ticketing vehicles Carlson welcomed in his driveway. The whole purpose of no parking there is to allow Carlson to drive into his garage, he said.
“If he doesn’t care if somebody is parked there for a few minutes why should we?“ Eschbach said.
Eschbach said he favored allowing parkers some leeway before a ticket is issued. Palmer also said an explanation of the parking crackdown should have preceded enforcement.
He said there would be a public “town hall” type meeting on the topic in May when explanations would be made and comments could be received.
Police Chief Brent Roalson did not respond to a request for comment.