01/20/08 — City reports handicapped parking violations fixed

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City reports handicapped parking violations fixed

By Anessa Myers
Published in News on January 20, 2008 12:29 PM

Nearly 900 handicapped parking violations at area businesses have been corrected, officials said this week.

The Mayor's Committee for Persons with Disabilities found many of the violations while doing its survery of handicapped parking in the city in early 2007, Chief Building Inspector Ed Cianfarra said.

"There were about 900 violations of some degree -- the sign wasn't high enough, it was too high or it was the incorrect sign," Cianfarra said. "We have corrected, within our legal authority, all of the violations that were found. We're done."

The inspections staff targeted most of the bigger violations early, like businesses not having handicapped parking spaces at all, then tried to work on other violations such as sign heights.

In North Carolina, Cianfarra explained, there is only one sign that is legal, and if a sign doesn't look exactly like that one, it's illegal. The correct version sets the fine for illegal parking at $250.

Businesses can check the correct dimensions, colors, fines and ways to display handicapped signs in the city's brochure, which is available in the Inspections Department on the first floor of City Hall.

Most of the businesses that were out of compliance with the signs were older establishments that failed to renew their signs.

Many businesses had no signs at all for their handicapped parking spaces. Others believed they were purchasing new signs at stores around the area, only to find out the stores had stocked improper signs.

Right now, Cianfarra said, the sign is most important, according to state law.

Previously, if the sign were incorrect, a non-handicapped person would park in a handicapped parking spot and then get the fine thrown out in court.

Cianfarra said it shouldn't matter how high the sign is or what the fine says, but judges were running into problems with incorrect signage that did not support fines or penalties.

"These people would get to court, and they should be fined $250, but they were only fined $100 since that's what the sign said," Cianfarra said.

Most of the time, though, he said he believes people have good intentions and try to respect the rules.

But it only takes one person who isn't handicapped to park in a handicapped spot to make the correct sign a necessity.