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Winter parking ban issues begin as residents seek ‘leniency’

Many communities surrounding Winchester, such as Lexington, have winter parking bans. This example of a parking ticket includes Lexington’s ban so residents are aware of the regulation when they receive one. COURTESY PHOTO/TOWN OF LEXINGTON

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With snow on the ground, it’s officially winter and that means limited parking and narrowing streets across town. While a steady stream of late fall Facebook comments about no overnight on-street parking tapered off as snow accumulations ramped up, residents are now living with the implementation of the annual parking ban.

The town’s traffic regulations, adopted July 27, 1936, include Article IV, Section 8, which reads:NIGHT PARKING PROHIBITED - No vehicles except those of physicians, nurses or clergymen while in actual attendance upon the sick, shall be parked on any street for a period of time longer than one (1) hour between the hours of 1 o'clock a.m. and 7 o'clock a.m. any day.”

If you’ve lived in Winchester for any length of time and don’t have ample parking at your home, you may have been the recipient of either a warning or a violation notice from the Winchester Police Department about overnight on-street parking. 

Warnings start in early November while citations are not issued until after Thanksgiving and then mostly on major roads, not necessarily side streets unless there is a specific complaint. Now and then tickets are issued on the side streets. 

The parking ban has been on the books for as long as Winchester’s Police Chief Daniel O’Connell can remember.

“[The ban is used] so when it snows, we don’t have to be towing cars,” O’Connell said. “My kids drive now, and we had to widen the driveway. We get it.”  

The chief added Town Hall receives the majority of the complaints, but he does see comments posted on the Winchester Resident’s Facebook page. This year the complaints are a little more than normal and O’Connell’s department has issued 159 violation notices, which is the highest it has been since the late 1990s.

Winchester resident Fallon Ryan has no driveway for her apartment. She lives in a two-family home and her landlord uses the driveway. Ryan parks on the street during the spring, summer and fall. The landlord lets her squeeze her car in the driveway during the winter parking ban months.  The rest of the year she parks on the street.  

Ryan said police “have been brutal” in ticketing for a few years now.

“We’re a very small side street,” she said. “I can understand if it’s a main road, but it’s not a main road and there’s no snow.”

Ryan said she’s received at least two tickets each year in the more than 10 years living on her street. Her suggested solution would be to “allow parking as long as there is no snow, allow a little more leniency.”

Winchester residents, however, are not alone in their plight with parking bans, whether only in winter, year-round or overnight.

Communities surrounding the town, such as Woburn, Stoneham, Medford, Arlington and Lexington, also have parking bans. Medford has the most lenient parking practice by only restricting parking to the odd or even side of the street during snowstorms while Arlington bans overnight parking year-round but offers residents waivers for special circumstances.

Stoneham’s ban is similar to Winchester’s and has been in place since the 1940s. Woburn and Lexington also have similar bans, but Lexington’s ban enforcement begins Dec. 1 and runs until April 1. The town issues warnings in September.

Winchester’s regulation, as written, is enforceable all year long, but police only enforce it from November through May. O’Connell acknowledged some modifications to the bylaw could be possible.

“It’s not our job to change the law,” he said. “It’s our job to enforce it. But it could be amended to May-November” when no enforcement is necessary.  

Select Board Chair Richard Mucci could not be reached for comment about what it would take to make changes to the regulations. Town Manager Beth Rudolph stated via email that she would need to check with the town counsel about the process to change such regulations.

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