It is with some interest that I await January to see what the outcome will be regarding Irmo’s latest and most hotly debated ordinance. In my humble opinion, this has been one of two horrendous clangers in the past 2 years.

Thanks to Councilman Julius Waites’ agenda item, banning yard parking slid into becoming law with very little knowledge of what was happening by the majority of the residents and outrage took the town by storm once the abatement notices began appearing left, right and center.

To add insult to injury council passed the ban on yard parking without any apparent research into existing laws, as there was a ban on street parking already in force from way back, albeit that it wasn’t enforced. However, once attention was drawn to this fact, suddenly everyone was getting parking tickets as well as abatement notices. By far not council’s finest hour. There were certainly some red faces, if not from embarrassment, then certainly from anger.

A move to repeal this outrageous ordinance was first met with a majority vote by council, but by the second reading it was not as obvious that the people’s voices were being heard and suddenly we had a fence sitter and it was decided to defer this decision until Irmo had a ‘new council’.

Three cheers to Councilman Barry Walker and Councilwoman Kathy Condom for their re-election and for their willingness to listen to the people and to vote accordingly.

Reasons to ban yard parking has been for reasons of property values (it’s ‘tacky’) and because it kills the grass. If you drive around different areas in the general Columbia area, you will witness many households that yard park, especially next to the driveway WITHOUT a parking pad.

Despite various addresses to council that disprove that yard parking depreciates property values, this is still being touted as the main reason to ban yard parking. And of course … it looks tacky, but who cares about the street parked cars obstructing smooth motoring? It’s almost as if council wants our roads to become parking lots.

I am not sure why grass has become king in Irmo. What sacred purpose does grass fulfill? Many cars are parked on the grass and the grass survives it – day after day … after day. There are also many yards where there is NO grass and NO cars parked in the yard. Shady trees prevent grass from growing. Erosion is being used as a reason – if nothing will grow under the trees, nothing will grow under the trees and parked cars or no parked cars will not stop soil washing into the street.

Are any of the council members who wish to impose this inconvenient law upon this town in any way personally affected? Most of them have no children living at home, which means there would be only 2, maybe 3 cars at each residence. Most council members live in homes that have double garages or spacious driveways – they are not affected by this law. Why does it matter how or if they were inconvenienced in their younger years, or where they previously lived? If it was inconvenient for them then, why do they wish to cause unnecessary inconvenience to those of us now?

If council is going to impose laws on us that force us to park in the driveway or in the street (a specific part of the street to boot), then what about council passing a law that forces people to use their garages for garaging? Some have objected to the fact that other residents park on the grass instead of on their driveway. So … why not pass a law that enforces parking in the garage? Why are people using garages as store rooms, or as sitting areas or workshops? Why aren’t they being forced to use a designated parking area for parking? If that sounds ridiculous it’s no more ridiculous than the intended parking ordinance banning use of personal property for personal possessions.

No-one is aware of their neighbors living situations, yet this ordinance and the controversy it has sparked has ensured that everyone is watching what is going on in everyone else’s yards. What business is it of anyone else what another is doing in their home or yard? As long as no harm or danger is being caused, why should anyone be concerned about where everyone else is parking? If fears for the grass is the only logical and sensible reason, something is very flawed here. If you say that parking on the grass pulls down property values, I’d like to see proof of this fact, which nobody has presented – this remains hearsay and is completely unsubstantiated.

There have been complaints about broken down cars parked in yards. Now there is evidence of broken down cars being parked in the street outside homes. So now the blight is moved from the yards to the streets and this makes it OK? How long does a car parked in the street have to be stationary before it can be towed? I guess council hasn’t considered this one.

Don’t misunderstand me – I fully support action being taken against unkempt houses. This is a situation where shabby conditions are causing harm or danger to the neighbors. By all means take action. But it is imperative that action is taken against those that deserve it – don’t target the entire town – this is like beating your kids because the neighbor’s kids were bad. What I object to is constitutional right to enjoyment of property being stomped over by hobnailed boots and the only sane reason appears to be to preserve the grass.

Some households have no choice but to park in the yard. I personally would prefer NOT to fell trees to create a parking pad. One good rain and the pine straw will be clogging the storm water drain. Is flooding preferable to erosion? I personally would prefer to pay up my student loan or car, or make real improvements to our property (like new floors or windows) than waste thousands of dollars on removing perfectly healthy and necessary trees (our area floods and trees soak up the water better than grass that won’t grow in our front yard.) Right here and now it would appear that council anticipates that a washed out or faded parking pad crawling with bugs will hold more appeal to prospective buyers than an upgraded interior of any home.

Has anyone considered that just maybe someone would not have interest in buying a home due to not having sufficient parking on the property? Not everyone wants to park their car in the street and would not want to buy a house that would force them to do so.

But we have to be satisfied that council is making decisions in the best interests of our finances, in what will be most convenient for our living situation (even in the face of great opposition) and of course … in the best interests of our grass.

The idea of parking cars on one side of the street is not going to work, or will be expensive to enforce, as signs will have to be posted. Added to that, one side of the street has the inconvenience of everyone parking on their side and maybe not even having parking space for their own visitors or easy access in and out of their driveways. Our neighborhoods and roads were not designed for safe and/or convenient street parking.

The other side of the street has the dubious honor of hosting the trash cans. Since the refuse removal company change over, we now have garden refuse on Mondays, recycling on Tuesdays, household trash on whatever day in your area, so tell me … which would you prefer – the cars or the trash? Either way something will be permanently obstructing motorists’ vision, making our roads difficult to navigate.

If you have cars parked on one side, trash cans on the other, the mailman coming down the street at a snail’s pace, a motorist and then suddenly a fire truck, which requires 10′ of road space … then what? I bet you someone will be parking in someone’s yard, regardless of whether they are breaking underground sprinkling systems or not.

Also consider the increased risk of hit and runs with cars parked in the street, particularly at night due to insufficient lighting. It seems reasonable to expect to see our insurance premiums going up in some households … will council be held accountable? A hit and run has already been reported – by someone who was hit while parked in their parking pad.

Good luck Irmo Police Department – enough said.

The majority of council is out of touch and legislating Irmo into a HOA will not attract young families or businesses to the area. And of course there is all the negative publicity Irmo continually generates. The next two years are anticipated eagerly, as feel sure there is every good chance of a ‘new council’ if these trends continue. I hope so, as Irmo deserves better.

Leslie Boland