VILLAGE OF LEWISTON – As Aretha Franklin heads to the Artpark stage tonight – asking for a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T – neighbors surrounding Artpark are asking for the same as more and more pop-up parking on residential lawns surrounds their homes.
Village Attorney Edward Jesella said he checked out the situation last week and told the board, “It should be banned. It was like a zoo. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.”
Residents have also seen noise, public lewdness and parties that continue on well after the concerts, he said. “People just don’t seem to have respect for their neighbors anymore,” Jesella said.
Marianne Gitterman of South Fourth Street said she has seen both men and women urinating on bushes in her yard.
Lewiston Police Sgt. Frank Previte said he has never seen the parking and unruliness get this bad, while homeowners said the lack of enforcement of zoning laws is affecting both their quality of life and their property values.
Village Mayor Terry Collesano said it has “mushroomed out of control” and the board agreed at their meeting Monday night that something needs to be done. As a first step they agreed to hand out flyers to homeowners who are turning their yards into parking lots – to let them know it is a violation of the Village zoning ordinances.
Jesella said if it goes on even a few more weeks people can be cited for the violation. He said the daily rate would likely start at $250.
Robert M. Giannetti of South Fourth Street said it’s not a new issue and scolded the board for being reluctant to enforce the village zoning ordinances that prohibit such activity.
The Giannettis have had people parking on all three sides of their property and have people cutting through their lawns, through their garden and on their driveway to get out.
He also noted that people who park on front lawns are in a village right-of-way, opening up the village to liability.
Anthony Girosole, who lives on the corner of Seneca and South Fourth Street, said that seven years ago there was a little bit of parking by friends and relatives on residential lots, but since then it has escalated to almost every lot from Seneca Street south to Artpark.
“There are brazen $5 and $10 parking signs and people ushering people into their yards,” said Girosole. “The zoning in our area is R1-A and R1-A in no shape or fashion allows paid parking.”
Girosole said they have no quarrel with Artpark and the festive atmosphere of concert nights, but the parking issue has a detrimental impact on property values.
“Don’t pass new laws, just enforce the ones we have,” said Girosole.
Jesella agreed and said, “It’s turned into parking lots and you can’t have parking lots in an R1 district. It’s a complete violation of the zoning ordinance.”
One resident, George Amsdill of Tuscarora Street, spoke in favor of using his own property as a parking lot and stormed out of the meeting after he made his point.
“I do park cars and it’s nobody business but mine. I’ve lived her 71 years,” said Amsdill, noting that his taxes have gone up. “Why pick on us?”
“We are talking about the law,” said Jesella. “You have a house in a residential district. You have to follow the zoning laws. I don’t care if you’ve lived here a 100 years.”
Trustee Bruce Sutherland asked about situations in which a homeowner has a yard full of cars belonging to friends and relatives – and aren’t charging them to park.
“If you have a once-a-year graduation party I could understand that, but not every Tuesday night, not every Wednesday night,” Girosole countered.
“It takes a little bit of courage, but it needs to be done immediately,” said Giannetti. “Let’s take some gumption and do something.”
Previte said police have just been waiting for direction from the board to move forward.