Citizens speak up to Dearborn board after controversial parking change vote

DEARBORN, Mo. — Residents showed up to express dismay over the Dearborn Board of Aldermen’s recent vote to change parking on city streets.

More than two dozen people packed into city hall Monday, July 10 for a nearly 2½-hour regular meeting. Much of the discussion centered on a vote that occurred at the Monday, June 12 meeting in open session following an adjournment into closed session.

However, parking wasn’t a listed item on the agenda, and Trace Stone, who owns “the hotel” building at 205 Main Street, pointed out that the vote broke not only Dearborn’s city ordinances but Missouri’s Sunshine Law, which requires items up for a potential vote to be posted ahead of the meeting.

Dearborn city attorney Dan Fowler was not at the June meeting, although a legal representative was present at the time of the vote.

“We’ve got a lot of pissed off people in here,” Stone said. “You have to tell us what’s going to be in your meeting and what you’re going to vote on — have to.”

At the June meeting, Dearborn alderman Mary Lee Green moved that all city streets be changed to parallel parking only with alderman Bob Bryan providing the second. The motion passed 3-1 with Don Kerns providing the lone dissenting vote.

City officials appeared to have the intention of simply repainting the parking lines in town and eliminating the few remaining areas of angled parking, but there was no attached ordinance with the vote to enforce. Green cited safety concerns and said residents have approached her about the problem, although she did not have documentation of the complaints.

After closed session to discuss legal matters Monday, the board of aldermen and mayor Jamie Morey announced a public hearing on the matter. They scheduled it for 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 19.

“I think maybe you people,” Stone said pointing at the city officials, “should start talking to some of these people,” he continued pointing at the assembled crowd. “These are the people that have to live in the city under your rule,” he concluded.

Dearborn’s current city ordinance states, “… every vehicle stopped or parked upon a roadway where there are adjacent curbs shall be so stopped or parked with the right-hand wheels of such vehicle parallel to and within eighteen (18) inches of the right-hand curb.” There are also provisions allowing for angled parking at the city engineer’s discretion.

The provisions give, the city traffic engineer the ability to “determine upon what streets angle parking shall be permitted and shall mark or sign such streets.”

“Have any of you guys read the ordinances lately?” Stone asked with no response.

The July meeting opened with Karen Foster asking why the board didn’t hold a public hearing ahead of the vote.

“We don’t need a public hearing,” Green said. “It’s for the safety of the drivers on the road.
“We made the decision. … It’s been decided.”

Stone and Rose Downing  — longtime owner of The Beauty Hut — on Third Street questioned the need for the change.

Asking to be placed on the agenda for a chance to speak, Stone rattled off a list of questions for the aldermen who voted. He asked for the identity of the city traffic engineer — Green responded, “All of us” — and asked what type of studies had been done to prompt the change.

Officials also didn’t have a cost estimate for the restriping work.

Stone also brought up the legal concerns.

“Bottom line, if you continue with this ordinance the way you’ve done,” Stone said, “my lawyer told me to play nice tonight — talk to you, reason with you. If it goes farther and goes into action without being changed the way you’ve done it, you’re breaking the law.”

The city issued a letter to Stone and Downing last month indicating the pending change. After earlier saying the decision had been made, Green later said, “It’s not done yet,” indicating that no work has been started and no citations written.

Last month’s vote also didn’t give the city any ordinance to actually enforce at this time.

Downing said her business would go from four parking spots to just one with the change, although Green insisted three vehicles could still fit in between the two private drives bordering The Beauty Hut. Downing believed Green’s actions to initiate changes to parking were personally motivated.

Green said drivers on Delaware Street can’t see around the parked cars at The Beauty Hut when trying to turn onto Third Street, although no one had record of the sight lines causing accidents at that spot.

“Go another street,” Downing told Green. “I can’t have it.”

Green and Bryan also talked about confusion based on the limited areas of angled parking. A general crowd response seemed to indicate only the aldermen were confused by this and not the citizens.

“We all seem to get it,” Karen Foster interjected.

Kerns made a motion in open session to rescind last month’s vote, but Fowler told him a member of the prevailing side had to make that type of motion. Green, Bryan and alderman Donald Swanstone declined to make that motion, and Kerns’ motion to keep parking out front of The Beauty Hut and Stone’s building as angled parking died without a second.

The matter was likely discussed in closed session before the announcement of the public hearing was made.

The hostile meeting came after citizens came to the June meeting upset over drainage ditches being dug out in front of houses with no advance warning. Those affected were worried about the depth and potential maintenance issues of the ditches.

Breanna Cheadle, another resident, urged the government officials to be more proactive in communication rather than reactive to avoid these types of ongoing confrontations.

However, Kelly Jones — a resident on August Street — brought up another concern during the meeting that led to another hostile exchange.

Recently, Dearborn Public Works workers were asked to remove two trees from his property in a city easement between the curb and the sidewalk. He questioned the lack of an action plan — required by city ordinance — in deciding to remove the trees he valued at about $1,000.

Jones said the work was supposed to be done while he was at work without notification.

“If you guys don’t want to upset so many people, you guys should let people know what you’re doing,” Jones said. “Not people coming home to a destroyed yard. People work hard to take care of their property; they invest money. You explain to me how a citizen is going to want to invest money, time and effort into his property if it’s going to be destroyed by the people that are supposed to be supporting his interests.”

Kerns asked about where the trees were planted, and Swanstone interjected that they were in a ditch, while Jones tried to explain it was between a road and a sidewalk.

“Swanstone, I’m talking right now. Would you be a little respectful?” Jones asked.

“Why should I?” Swanstone responded.

The dialogue spoke to a bigger concern for some of the citizens in how the government has interacted with residents in recent months.

“When I called other towns to find out how they went about things, they actually told me they had the respect to notify their neighbors about anything they’ll be doing,” Danielle Perkins said to the board. “But this town has absolutely no respect for its citizens, whatsoever, by the digging that they’ve done.”

In the end, Morey and Kerns pledged support for Jones to keep his trees while looking into clearing the drainage issues on August Street without removing the trees.