Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

Aldermen won't bring back handicap spots

by Chris Schultz

September 27, 2012

If city electors want nine handicap parking spaces restored in the downtown, they will probably have to do it themselves.

A proposed ordinance restoring handicap parking spaces that were removed this spring was considered by the Lake Geneva City Council on Monday, and then rejected on a 6-2 vote.

During public comment, former alderman Terry O’Neill, who led the petition drive to restore the parking spaces, urged the council to approve the ordinance.

O’Neill said the parking commission did not forward a request to restore handicap parking to the city council.

“It took a petition and 400 signatures to get the handicap parking issue before the city council, and that’s not right,” O’Neill said.On Sept. 5, O’Neill turned in a petition signed by 413 residents calling for restoration of the following handicap parking spaces:

- One near the Radio Shack on the 700 block of Main Street.

- One near China West in the 800 block of Main.

- One at the West End of Library Park.

- One at the pet shop, 500 block of Broad Street.

- One at Hogs & Kisses, 100 block of Broad Street.

- Two at the Riviera.

- Two outside the parking lot at Geneva Street.

City Clerk Mike Hawes said 333 signatures were the minimum needed to initiate direct legislation.

Under state law, after a direct legislation petition is submitted and confirmed, the city council may either approve the ordinance directed by the petition, or submit the ordinance to the voters.

Alderman Gary Hougen moved to approve the ordinance, Alderwoman Sarah Hill seconded the motion for discussion.

“With all due respect to the parking commission … Administrator (Dennis) Jordan, and the mayor, I think this is simple arithmetic,” Hougen said.

He said restoring the handicapped parking spaces was a “small price” to meet the wishes of 413 residents.

While it’s true that handicapped drivers can park anywhere free, “if all the parking spaces are full, there’s nowhere for the handicapped to park downtown,” Hougen said.

Hill said she didn’t disagree with Hougen.

“This is a difficult position to be in, because you don’t want to be against handicapped people,” she said.

On the other hand, Hill said that in her opinion, the petition was not a valid direct legislation petition. The decision to cut the handicapped spaces was made by the parking commission at the recommendation of city staff.

By state law, direct legislation can create a new ordinance, but it cannot change an administrative policy decision.

Hill said she believed the handicapped parking decision was an administrative policy decision.

Jordan has said city staff reviewed the use of handicapped spaces throughout the city, and determined 10 spaces were not being used as much as the other handicapped spaces.

Those 10 spaces were eliminated, but the city added a new handicapped space at Seminary Park.

Approval of the direct legislation ordinance was turned down 6-2, with just Hougen and Alderman Bill Mott voting for it.

The next step would be to determine whether the petition is a legitimate direct legislation petition, and if so, when it will be on the ballot, probably in April.