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West U Resident Demands Jury Trial for Parking Violation

August 1, 2013 By:InstantNewsWestu Staff

Local News

A West U resident has requested that a jury of her peers decide the outcome of a municipal citation for parking on a sidewalk.

Penley's vehicle the day she received a citation for parking on the sidewalk.

Suzanne Penley’s vehicle the day she received a citation for parking on the sidewalk.

Suzanne Penley, who lives in the 4200 block of Rice Boulevard, was ticketed by the city on June 20 after receiving several warnings about parking on the sidewalk.

Parking on a sidewalk is prohibited in the State of Texas.

Penley lives in a 1930s West U home with a single car garage. She owns two SUV’s that she routinely parks in her driveway. Penley says that her garage is too small to park one of her vehicles in it and she prefers not to park on the street because she’s afraid that her vehicle will get damaged or burglarized.

“I’m not disputing the fact that I parked on the sidewalk,” she said. “I just want to park my car in my driveway. I want what every other resident has, the option to park in their driveway.”

The city launched a Parking Etiquette Program last October, which was the result of three town hall meetings and deliberation by city council.

The purpose of the program is to encourage a friendlier approach to enforcement and better parking practices.

Code Enforcement Officer Daniel Paripovich has written 324 parking related first-time warnings. Of those, 257 were issued for parking on a sidewalk. He has written 25 parking tickets and one ticket for parking on a sidewalk.

Penley received her first warning by Paripovich on April 1. A second warning was issued on a second vehicle in her driveway on June 3 and a third warning was issued on June 12.

Penley sent three e-mails to the city during that time through the city’s Parking Etiquette web page, but says she never received any response back. The city’s Code Enforcement division said that they were unaware of any e-mails she sent.

Penley got a permit for installing pavers along her driveway the day after she was ticketed.

Suzanne Penley got a permit for installing pavers along her driveway the day after she was ticketed.

On June 17, Penley received a phone call from Paripovich and City Planner Debbie Scarcella who spent nearly half an hour answering questions and suggesting ways to widen Penley’s driveway.

Scarcella encouraged Penley to look into widening her driveway and suggested she meet with Chief Building Official John Brown on the best way to do it, according to the recorded conversation on file with the city.

Penley said that she was going to look into having pavers laid in the grass next to her driveway so she could park in her driveway, which is permitted by the city.

In the recording, Penley asks Paripovich if he can stop issuing notices while she takes care of the problem. He tells her that he cannot.

“You cannot park on the sidewalk ever,” he said. “Period.”

Paripovich followed up with Penley on June 18 saying that he would give her until Monday, June 24 to resolve her parking situation. While parking on the grass is against city ordinance, he said he would allow her to park there until the following Monday.

On June 20, Paripovich drove past Penley’s home and her vehicle was parked on the sidewalk. He issued a citation for parking on the sidewalk.

Penley says she came home for half an hour and was going to leave shortly when she came out and found the ticket.

The following day, Penley met with Brown and received a permit for installing pavers along her driveway, which are currently in place.

Penley was scheduled to appear in West U Municipal Court on July 16. When she went to court, Penley says the prosecutor didn’t even look at the documents she brought with her and said she had two choices, to pay the $75 fine or have a trial by judge or jury. She chose a jury trial.

“I was shocked when they wouldn’t dismiss it,” she said. “It’s not about the money. It’s the principal.”

City Secretary Thelma Lenz says the city may only have two or three jury trials a year; only when a defendant requests one. The jury pool is selected from the city’s voter registration and summons are sent to residents, she said.

Penley says she supports the city’s parking etiquette program and understands that she was in violation.

“I understand, but work with me,” she said. “I don’t want to be used as a poster child to prove to the rest of the city that this is how it’s going to be done.”

Penley is scheduled to appear in court for pre-jury motions on Aug. 27.

18 Responses to “West U Resident Demands Jury Trial for Parking Violation”

  1. Blocking the sidewalk? No problem. Says:

    Is it to OK to rob a bank in West U if the bank is on a corner?

  2. It'sTheLaw Says:

    How quaint!

    There are residents all over West U that park in their own shortened driveways, especially corner lots, that feel they are special and above the law. They ignore the fact that, though the driveway is cut short, they have more curb length parking than an interior lot. Yet they feel empowered and endowed to block the sidewalk. This is wrong! This is unlawful. The sidewalk is not private property whether on a corner lot or inside lot.
    Blocking the public right of way, I.e. sidewalks, is against the law and City of WU municipal officers should enforce the law.
    NO EXCUSES. NO EXCEPTIONS.

  3. LHG Says:

    Your house is very cute and well maintained. It is nice to see a house that looks like it has been plucked out of a long ago time and looks so good and doesn’t gobble up all the lot it sits on. My family moved to West U from The Heights in 1940 into a house my folks built on Tangley. It is still there and has always had a two car detached garage in the back. The house I moved into in the early 1970s in West U is no more but also had a detached garage for two cars and was built in 1935. Just looking at the pictures posted here it appears to me that you still have a wooden garage door. I had two wooden doors on my 1935 house and couldn’t use the garage because the springs broke. I finally had to do something because they looked so bad. I was surprised at the low cost of replacing the heavy wooden doors with aluminum panels. I thought I would mention this in case your original door keeps you from using the garage. My 1935 two-car garage had a wooden divider so each garage had to be wide enough for me to park four-door Buicks and Pontiacs. In the 1970s, these cars were really long. If just one of your cars could be partially parked in your garage, your second car could be parked behind it without being on the sidewalk. I will have to say, that I had one car that was too long for the garages so we extended one of the garages into the backyard. I did live in Bellaire in the 1960s in a house with a single-car garage attached to the house like yours. I know what you mean about these old houses using garages for more than parking. My washer, dryer, and water heater were in the garage along with a ladder to the attic.

  4. Your Neighbor on Says:

    It is obvious that residents want parking laws enforced. Why won’t the city government and police department do it? This is the problem – unfair, unbalanced and inequitable enforcement of laws. Some people get away with it, some have to pay fines. How many times do we see police cars drive past cars parked on the sidewalk? They say they have more important crimes to watch for. But the crime report often says no crimes were reported many days. Just do your job. I agree with this woman – she was singled out. I hope her lawyer is smart enough to show the jury that at any given time, there are dozens of cars parked on the sidewalk, and the police do nothing. Two things will come from this trial – either no parking laws are enforced, or all parking laws are enforced. Let’s hope the police chief decides to enforce parking laws. After all, it’s the law.

  5. Tangley Resident Says:

    It is against Texas law to park on the sidewalk. Period. End of story. What part of that don’t you understand? Typical whining liberal wants special treatment. The law applies to everybody, even you. Pay the fine. By the way, those pavers look hideous. I’m sure your neighbors are appalled.

  6. West U Resident Says:

    I understand your frustration, but you got three warnings; the city specifically told you they would continue to issue citations while you worked out a “fix” to your driveway problem; you parked in your driveway anyway, across the public sidewalk – even if only for a little while – and you got caught. Pay the fine and move on.

    • LHG Says:

      I agree with West U Resident that you should just pay the fine and move on. Spend the money you would have to pay an attorney to represent you to fix your driveway problem.

  7. LHG Says:

    P.S. The small, single garages in the 1930 bungalows were adequate. Not every family had a car, and very few had two. During World War II, tires were scarce because the rubber was needed for the war effort and with the rationed gas, cars weren’t driven very much. We either walked or rode the bus.

  8. LHG Says:

    Of course anything will cost money. The pavers look like they are solving the problem. What about widening the driveway where the car is parked on the pavers? (Not widening from the garage to the street but just where the pavers are placed.) You can’t do anything without getting an o.k. from the city because of easements. Making the single garage into a double one would cost too much. When I moved from a West U 1935 bungalow after 40 something years, I moved into an apartment with an attached single garage and made a point of buying a smaller car. If I have a visitor, they can’t park behind my garage because it would force the other tenants into the “street.” I certainly don’t want someone hurt because my car forces them into traffic and I especially don’t want to be sued. I don’t worry about the adults, but the kids. A curved driveway would work, but again the city would have to approve. When the infrastructure work was done, I had my driveway repaved. It didn’t look very complicated. I wouldn’t think the filler had to be concrete or expensive stone to do the job. I’ve seen compacted sand or dirt work. Good Luck in whatever you decide.

    • Suzanne Penley Says:

      LHG: Thanks for your suggestions. Yes, the pavers are solving the problem.

      In 2007 I asked the City about either widening the driveway (concrete) and/or putting in a half-circle drive; both were prohibited. And not until May of this year, 7 months after the implementation of the new Policy, was I made aware that I was in violation of part of it.

      My biggest gripe is how this matter has been handled. City personnel – including Daniel Paripovich, the person who issued the Citation, knew of and were involved in, my efforts to resolve the issue. Yet, the one Citation Daniel Paripovich has written for parking over a sidewalk since implementation in 2012 of the new Policy, has been to me. I, along with other residents I have spoken to about this matter, witness daily vehicles that are parked over a sidewalk, many are “regulars”, and most often in driveways that have ample space for two vehicles to be parked side-by-side.

      I am on a regular basis, taking photos of vehicles within the City that are parked over the sidewalk – the same exact violation I was cited for. I would ask anyone reading this to begin to pay more attention to vehicles parked over a sidewalk and if possible, take a photo and send to me via email to: Suzanne@suzannepenley.com. A few of the violations I have recorded photos of have even been on the same block as I reside on and one of the very day I was issued a Citation.

      Yet, why have I been singled out and the only one to receive a Citation?

      My most important point is that I was made aware of the matter, I proactively cooperated with the City and in a timely manner, and at my own expense, corrected the problem.

      Seems that our City government gives preferential treatment for persons to be able drive thru our City streets with no drivers license, no proof of insurance, an invalid inspection/registration sticker, etc., and as long as your show up in Court with proof of corrective action, you don’t have to pay up.

      I am the one person singled out for a Citation for parking over a sidewalk and by the person whom was part of the personnel I proactively sought out to help in resolving the matter. And when I showed up in Court with proof of all my efforts along with resolution of the matter, I’m not extended the same courtesy as is to others whose Citations very for much more severe violations.

      Had I been uncooperative and never made any attempt to address a matter that I was unaware I was in violation of in the first place, I would have no problem with being the City’s poster child for it’s new Policy and Daniel Paripovich’s selective reasons for patrolling the 4200 block of Rice Boulevard.

      I look forward to my day in Court and presenting the evidence I have collected, and continue to collect, that will clearly demonstrate a discriminatory, selective and inequitable practice.

      • Chuck Smith Says:

        You block a public right of way with your giant SUV and expect a jury to find you not guilty? How about the pedestrians that are forced to walk in the street because people like you block side walks? If someone gets hit by a car and dies because they had to walk around your vehicle are you not guilty of man slaughter? I hope the maximum penalty involves jail time. Perhaps then you’ll think about how your actions effect others.

      • It'sTheLaw Says:

        AT YOUR TRIAL BY JURY PERHAPS THE ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) WILL BE READ TO YOU. PERHAPS THE JURORS WILL BE SEATED IN WHEELCHAIRS. PERHAPS NANNIES WITH WU INFANTS AND BABY CARRIAGES WILL FILL THE COURT ROOM.
        AND PERHAPS THE CITY OF WU WILL ENFORCE THE PUBLICS’ LEGAL RIGHT OF WAY AND START ticketing ALL OFFENDERS THAT PARK OVER SIDEWALKS, WITHOUT THE COURTESY OF 3 WARNINGS.
        It’sTheLaw

  9. West U Resident Says:

    The side walk does not belong to the homeowner. It is for the use of all the residents of WU and their guests. When someone parks on the sidewalk a person walking down the block often has to walk in the street to get around the parked car. This is particularly dangerous for children on bicycles and parents with strollers. I would rather the car owner park in the street than force pedestrians to walk around their car.

  10. Suzanne Penley Says:

    I would like it known that I’ve lived in my home for nearly 10 years and only after receiving first warning in late May 2013 was I aware that there was an issue. Upon that, I reacted promptly (the next day) by using the “For more information about the Parking Etiquette Program…” website listed on the Notice, sent the first of three emails via the link provided on the webpage in an attempt to better understand what I was in violation of. After none of my three emails (May 22, June 3 and June 12) were not replied to, I obtained a name and direct contact number for the person who was issuing the warnings (no name is listed on the Warning Notice, only a website) from one of the City’s police officers and as reported in the feature, called and had a lengthy discussion with City personnel on June 17th about the matter and options available to me to resolve it. In that conversation when I asked why my emails had not been returned the response given to me was that emails go to a general mailbox and they were not sure who is responsible for forwarding those.

    The Citation I received was on June 20 in the afternoon – interestingly, the afternoon before my scheduled appointment with the City Planner on the morning of June 21.

    It is my understanding that the basis for the new Parking Etiquette Program arose from City Council’s and citizens concerns for the large number of vehicles being parked on city streets – vehicles that, impede safe passage for emergency vehicles, city service trucks and even residents traveling on and/or thru other streets within the City. My home is one of the last remaining original Bungalows in the City and the only one in the 4200 block of Rice Boulevard. Therefore, all of my neighbors have newer homes which also include ample driveway space for a two vehicles (some more), yet, most choose to park one or more of their vehicles on the street; that’s their choice and I have no issue with that. But, due to my home being one of the original bungalows, my driveway is a single lane style. In 2007, I inquired about widening my driveway but was told that because my home is an original Bungalow that widening the driveway was prohibited. Yes, I have a garage but apparently in the late 30’s garages were built for purposes other than housing a vehicle and therefore, even a regular-sized sedan will not fit in it, length-wise and/or also width-wise.

    I simply want what every other West U resident has – the option to park their vehicles in their own driveway.

    Interestingly, the new Parking Enforcement exempts other homes like mine (original Bungalows) located on select streets from the new policy but in researching this, I discovered that the majority of those Bungalows have existing double-lane style driveways because of where they are located on the property.

    At the July 16th municipal court appearance, I witnessed everyone (non-residents) there as a result of receiving Citations for offenses such as driving without their license, no proof of insurance, having a tail out, invalid inspection / registration, etc., have their Citation dismissed solely on the fact that they provided proof to the Court that they had corrected the matter for which they were cited for. Why was I not provided the same courtesy? I had proof of my numerous attempts to reach someone at the City to discuss the matter prior to being issued a citation, had proof that I had met with a City Planner, had copies of my Permit, photos and a copy of the Inspection & Approval notice from the City of the work performed so my vehicle would no longer be parked in a manner which would violate the new policy. The visiting prosecutor who I appeared in front of instead, kept asking me (repeatedly) “What don’t you just park your car in your garage?” and refused to even look at or review my documents which clearly showed that I had in fact, been in the process of proactively addressing the issue with the appropriate City personnel – ONE OF WHICH, is the individual who issued the Citation, and that the modifications were completed, to the satisfaction of the City and at my expense, within 24 hours after the Citation.

    Suzanne Penley

    • It'sTheLaw Says:

      Not only is this WU LAW, It’s STATE AND FEDERAL LAW. You cannot block the public right of way.
      You do not own the sidewalk.
      You cannot legally block the sidewalk.
      I hope I am on the jury of your peers… GUILTY AS CHARGED !

    • Brokelyn Says:

      Suzanne, let it drop. Pay the fine because you did in fact commit the “crime” of parking across the public sidewalk. So what if other people in court were given a free pass — that’s the right of the judge. Your right is to follow the law where the law is clear and equitable. This law is pretty clear to anybody who reads it. You were sent multiple warnings. You think you were singled out, but what does that have to do with anything? So what if the city didn’t provide a variance to expand your driveway in 2007 — that doesn’t give you the right to decide that the law doesn’t apply to you. So what if someone with expired plates was not fined because they remedied it. Manage your own affairs. Perhaps the other law-breakers you cite will be next.

      My first reaction was to agree that it sounded like Daniel was singling you out, but upon reflection, you didn’t JUST start to park on the sidewalk. You are a long-time offender.

      The enforcement program just started so there are bound to be issues caused by uncertainty and questions. So this particular case got messy and possibly suffered from poor communication. Fine. It’s done now. Walk away.

      Suzanne, you have put people with disabilities, people with pets, and children in harm’s way for many, many years. You were not harrassed or singled out during all of those years despite the same rules being on the books!

  11. Downton Abbey Says:

    “It’s not about the money. It’s the principal.”

    Principle!!!!

    There’s a winner….

  12. Brokelyn Says:

    Good, glad this is going to court. Let’s get it resolved once and for all.

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