WALLA WALLA - It isn't that there's been any major change to downtown parking ordinances lately, but since the arrival of a new parking enforcement officer earlier this year, more people are being caught off guard by parking tickets, especially since the new parking officer doesn't always use the traditional chalk-dot-on-the-tire to keep track of parking offenders.
"There is no magic rule that you have to chalk tires. What you have to do is to identify the vehicles parked in an area by license plate numbers," Walla Walla Police Capt. Gary Bainter said.
Gone are the days of running out to your car to look for the dot, though the officer still uses this traditional method of marking. But probably more important is that the officer is enforcing the city of Walla Walla Municipal Code Two-Hour Continuous Parking Ordinance.
Continuous parking ordinances are common in many cities. They usually restrict parking to any single city block for a two-hour period within a calendar day. But what most people don't realize is the parking period begins and ends two hours from when you first parked your vehicle, regardless of how long it was actually parked there.
Here is how it works.
Let's say you park in front of 21 E. Main at 9 a.m. to pick up a cup of coffee and pastry. Then you head out at 9:10 a.m. Later you decide to come back for lunch at noon. However, your right to park the same vehicle on the same block ended at 11 a.m. that same day. If you return for lunch at noon and park on the same block, you could get a ticket, even though you only parked a total of 10 minutes.
The ordinance has been on the city books for years. But the newer method of enforcement, which forgoes the chalk dot, has caught a few people off guard.
Bainter said he even had one couple explain how the husband had come to town earlier in the morning, then the wife came later in the same vehicle and parked on the same block. She got the ticket, and Bainter got the argument.
And at least one flower shop owner wrote letters to the city because the owner couldn't park in front of the flower shop to pick up deliveries throughout the day.
But other merchants have been very supportive, noting that more parking spaces are available for their customers.
Be advised, the continuous parking ordinance also applies to the city's two-hour parking lots, as attested to by Mayor Barbara Clark. She parked in a lot across from City Hall for a few minutes to pick up City Council material. She then returned to the same lot that day to attend a meeting and received a ticket.
In spite of the ticket, Clark said she is in favor of the new parking enforcement practices.
To learn more about the city's parking ordinances, go online to www.codepublishing.com/wa/wallawalla.html and go to Title 10, Chapters 10.13.