By Richard L. Gaw
On the morning of March 6, in the Heather Grove development in West Grove, the cars of dozens of Avon Grove High School students were parked at reckless angles along the curbed contours of the development's cult-de-sacs. For the past several years, the residents of Heather Grove – as well as those who live on or near Meadow Woods Lane near the Avon Grove Charter School – have voiced their grievances about the issue of overflow parking by both students and parents near where they live.
The site was made even more glaring, given the fact that the evening before, the town's leaders decided to do something about it.
At its March 5 meeting, the London Grove Board of Supervisors authorized a parking restrictions study that will explore the parking issues that have plagued both areas. The study will be conducted by Gerald Baker, the township's traffic engineer, in order to adopt restrictions and have the state police enforce them.
Over the course of nearly one hour, residents weighed in on the impact that the overflow student parking has had on them and their neighbors. One resident of Heather Grove said that the problem has escalated to the point where he has not only seen Avon Grove High School (AGHS) students park their vehicles on his and his neighbors' lawns, he has seen them run over mailboxes in a reckless pursuit of a parking spot. He told the supervisors that he himself has been threatened by students when he has asked them not to park.
“Three years ago, I wrote a letter to the township, and I got a response back saying that I needed a quorum,” he said. “I got the quorum, and it just fell through the cracks. We need a solution to the problem. Schools can't enforce anything they say. As soon as they expand parking, what happens when that gets exceeded? As kids get older, more cars come. When the kids find out there's no enforcement, guess what? We're right back where we started.”
Another resident of Heather Grove said that he saw three students in a car back over his mailbox. “As they drove past me, they were laughing,” he said. “The next morning, there must have been 40 [student] cars. My wife pleaded with them not to park on our lawns. They turfed it every day. I had to re-seed every day. When we approached them, they answered, 'I'll park wherever I want to.' With time, ignorance returns, and it's important that we do something now.”
As for the parking problem at Avon Grove Charter School (AGCS), several residents said that the problem is not only with the students who choose to drive to school, but with the parents who drop off and pick up their children throughout the day.
“We suffer the consequences, where you can't get out of Meadow Woods Lane for ten to 15 minutes because of the amount of parents dropping off children,” said one Meadow Woods Lane resident, who added that the problem persists throughout the day.
One Meadow Woods Lane resident, who provided the supervisors with photographs that illustrate the depth of the log jam of vehicles approaching State Road, said that the problem is not just one of increased traffic, but an additional safety hazard.
“When you're coming down from west towards Avondale on State Road and making your left-hand turn into Meadow Woods, you're concerned about that car coming at you at 50 miles per hour,” he said. “When you go to make that turn and there are kids and a line of cars blocking half the road, it's not a good thing. The people who park there don't care.”
Dr. Kevin Brady, head-of-school for AGCS, said that he understands the frustration of the school's neighbors, and said that the school has begun to take steps to rectify the problem. In a Feb. 11 letter to parents, Brady referred to the parking issue as “problematic” for both the school and residents of Meadow Woods Lane.
“In the past, we have appealed to parents and students to avoid parking on Meadow Woods Lane because of the unnecessary tension it creates with our neighbors,” the letter read. "Unfortunately, the problem has gotten worse, and as a result, anyone parking on Meadow Woods Lane from this point forward will run the risk of having their vehicle towed.”
Brady said that the reason for the parking difficulties is that the snow this winter has been piled in the parking lot, reducing the number of available spaces.
“There is so much snow that's accumulated, it has spread out over spaces that would normally be available,” said Brady, who added that the school has spent $8,000 in snow removal this winter. He said that the other factor in the parking problem has been seen during school events, when the lot is parked full.
A permanent solution is expected to arrive at AGCS, Brady said, after the snow has melted away. Brady indicated in the letter that the school is increasing the number of parking spaces available at its State Road location.
“We haven't made progress on campus because there's a layer of ice and snow,” Brady said. “To speed that process along, we had a backhoe in the rear of the property, for a contractor to look at the expansion of our parking lot in that area.”
Brady added that the parking lot expansion should be completed “in a few months' time.”
A representative from AGHS offered a "no comment" response on the Heather Grove parking issue.
The supervisors agreed that the study will be a good first step toward solving the problem. “I do believe the best course of action is for the schools to take care of this problems for us, but I'm not opposed to going the other way, too [voting for the study],” said supervisor Dave Connors.
Connors has asked Dr. Brady to enlist the help of a Charter School staff member to be outside during key pick-up and drop-off times during the day. He has also reached out to State Police Avondale.
In other London Grove Township business, Shane Kinsey, the township's director of public works, said that 740 tons of salt were used by the township during the seven storms that fell on the township in January, and that 400 tons of salt were used during February's six storms. He said that 150 tons of salt remain at the township.
Tom Bolko, general manager of the Inniscrone Golf Course, reported that the course recorded a profit of $20,000 in 2013. In other Inniscrone news, the board approved the funding needed to repair the grading of the 16th hole at the course, which is estimated to be $13,543. The repairs to the hole are due to begin in the spring.
By a vote of 3-1, the board approved Ordinance 182 which, as enacted, creates a penalty and fine system for commercial and residential owners who have repeated false alarms. Township manager Steve Brown said that the ordinance was recommended to the township by emergency services units in the township.
"They have to deal with a fair number of false alarms in commercial and residential structures, and as volunteers, this puts a burden on those departments," Brown said. "Other communities have false alarm ordinances that penalize property owners who don't maintain their alarm systems."
The terms of the ordinance define what determines a false alarm, what constitutes a violation, and creates a monetary penalty system that ranges from $100 to $1,000.