Conflict pertains to neighborhood parking 

CORNELIUS — A decision by an area homeowners association is being called an “abuse of power” after the board of the Harborside community enacted a No Parking rule on the main neighborhood road.

Bob and Barbara Houck recently approached Cornelius commissioners with results of a petition, which they believe proves the rule to not park on Harborside Drive, enforced by the town,  should be reversed.

Of the 90 out of inhabited 158 homes they went to, they received 83 Yes votes and seven for No.

“It was a cold and rainy day,” Bob said. “When we got more than 50 percent of the neighborhood to say yes, we went home.”

While the HOA stands by its decision as having met a safety concern, Board President Michelle Crawford said board members are reviewing the matter with Cornelius staff and police and will give residents a chance to vote on the outcome. But they aren’t taking the petition, which was also presented to them, at face value.

“We received e-mails from people who said they felt pressured to sign the petition,” Crawford said.

The HOA board plans to send out a mailing ballot later this month with various options, including adding parking on one side or keeping it at no parking.

“Whatever the majority says is what we will do, regardless of the board’s personal opinions,” Crawford said. “We want to do it fairly by giving options and letting people vote in the privacy of their own home.”

Residents who live on the side streets of the neighborhood can park in their garages and driveways in the alleys, plus in designated parking spaces in front of their homes. However, 24 homeowners, including the Houks, who live alongside West Catawba Avenue only have their driveways and garages available close by.

“If they have a car in the garage and it’s a two-car family, no one can come visit and park anywhere close,” Bob Houck said, adding people have to park a few streets over and walk.

“When they built and sold the homes, we were told we could park on Harborside,” he said. “Then the board took it upon themselves to change it.”

The Cornelius Traffic Calming Policy says neighborhoods with HOAs must submit a letter from their board requesting traffic calming initiatives like speed and parking changes. Neighborhoods without an HOA must present a petition with 80 percent of the residents approving the change for the traffic calming measure to be considered.

“The city manager’s office should not be obligated to grant a traffic calming initiative based only on the will of an HOA board of directors who’s not representing the will of the residents, but only abusing their power to accommodate the will of the HOA board,” the Houks wrote in a statement to the town.

Crawford said discussion was initiated by residents for safety concerns, including cars illegally blocking fire hydrants or parking too close to intersections.

“Residents couldn’t see when pulling out onto the street from the alleyway,” she said.

Initial efforts were to put mirrors up, but “the feedback we received was they were rendered useless.”

The Houks allege that it isn’t a safety concern, but rather a personal preference by some HOA board members.

Crawford refused to provide the newspaper with minutes from the meetings, but said discussions were based on residents who attended. With 160 homes in the neighborhood, she said they usually only had 10-20 people show up. The Houks said they did go the meetings until after the decision was made. 

The street was changed from private to public so the police department could enforce the rule. Since the road was repainted to reflect no parking, Cornelius police have been writing warning tickets for obstructing traffic.

“I was aware of the parking being limited due to bordering Catawba,” said resident Chad Drilling. “I did not feel that would be an issue due to plenty of street parking. That all changed overnight, without notice when I started to have friends and family receive warning tickets for parking on Harborside.”

Crawford said the reason street parking is an issue is because people don’t use their garages and driveways. But with three vehicles and a two-car garage, Drilling said his driveway is usually full.

“All I want is convenient additional parking so I can have guests park,” he said. “The HOA doesn’t need to stop parking on certain streets, it needs to set up organized parking wherever available due to the size of our community.”