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A battle over no parking signs inside a small Indian Land neighborhood made its way to Lancaster County Council last month.
Panhandle resident Erwin Feiner, who lives along Largo Lane in the Arlington neighborhood, brought his concerns about such signs, and the legality of towing cars along county roads, to council’s Jan. 28 meeting.
Feiner, a former police officer, expressed concern with an unwelcome development he’s observed in his neighborhood – the addition of multiple no parking signs on several roads. The neighborhood is located in the northern end of the county, just off S.C. 160 and only a few miles from U.S. 521.
After discussions with county officials, representatives from his homeowners association and members of the S.C. Department of Transportation, Feiner decided to approach council for clarification on the issue and answers to his questions.
Feiner’s main question was whether a homeowners association can post no parking signs and then tow cars from county roads.
“They’ve towed 22 cars from the development. Now they’re talking about not towing anymore, but booting the cars,” Feiner said. “But what happens if there is an emergency and there’s a woman with a sick child? How do you get out?”
“I don’t believe private citizens or a group can put signs on a county road,” he told council.
Feiner left the meeting without any direct input from council, though District 7 Councilman Brian Carnes weighed in on the issue Wednesday, Feb. 6.
Carnes, who represents that area of the county, said he first learned of the debate from friends who live in that neighborhood. He has since met with members of Arlington’s homeowners association to discuss the potential problem.
“Now I’ve got a list of questions submitted to the county administrator to get some answers to see what the overall picture is,” Carnes said.
From what Carnes has learned, no parking signs were initially installed in the neighborhood’s cul-de-sacs and towing was allowed in those areas. He said the homeowners association has since installed similar signs on other roads because of safety concerns.
“They told me their initial recommendation coming out of their safety committee was to install signs because of near-misses and one person who got bumped by a car because of all the cars parked along the edge of the road,” Carnes said.
He said the association’s members are also worried about access for emergency vehicles.
“When cars are parked on both sides of the road, it’s almost impossible to get a firetruck in there because the roads are narrower,” Carnes said.
Carnes said it’s a difficult issue and he’s hoping for more input on how to move forward.
“I know people on both sides of the issue. There are people in there who don’t like it, but the homeowners association says 90 percent of the people there are OK with it, but I don’t know,” he said.
No simple answer
County Administrator Steve Willis has spent the last few weeks investigating the issue and said while most of Arlington’s roads are private, about five of them are county-owned. He also confirmed the installation of several no parking signs in the neighborhood.
“The HOA has been very, very active in the enforcement of those signs and on private property they have been towing the cars, but if it’s on private property, that’s their call,” Willis said. “The problem is there’s also been towing of cars out on county roads. We haven’t granted them that authority, but they apparently have been doing it.”
Having said that, Willis said there aren’t many alternatives to towing cars in no parking zones.
“How do you enforce, especially when the sheriff’s office has a ‘gazillion’ other things to do than ticket?” he asked.
Other than ticketing or towing, Willis said residents have the right to file for a summons of complaint in magistrate court, though it’s a very involved process.
“But that probably won’t work out well,” he said. “And absent council formally appointing one or more people as a code enforcement officer, and then council assuming responsibility up there, there’s not much to do. So we’re researching if anything can be done.”
Conversations between all the parties involved is continuing, though Willis is not sure when or if an answer will develop.
“I don’t know if there will be a simple, good answer to this,” Willis said.
Contact reporter Chris Sardelli at (803) 416-8416