A $20 parking ticket and a heartfelt plea to the Northport Village Board might lead to changes in handicap parking regulations in the village.
Officials are considering allowing people with valid handicap parking permits to use metered spaces for free after a town resident made an appeal.
Huntington Station resident and artist Robyn Bellospirito said that as had been her habit for several months when visiting the village for an art class, she would park in a metered spot on Scudder Avenue, display her valid parking placard and go about her business without feeding the meter.
“There’s a little parking area there but only one handicap space and there are no handicap spaces along that part of Scudder, just metered parking,” she said. “The handicap space is always taken.”
She said she assumed that the village had the same policy as the Town of Huntington. The town allows those with a valid handicap/disability parking permit or license to park for free at metered spaces within downtown Huntington, town officials said.
When Bellospirito visited the village on Aug. 8 and assumed her regular routine, she returned to her car after class to find a $20 parking ticket.
“I know not all towns do it, but Huntington does so I guess I made a false assumption,” Bellospirito said. “But I was using my parking tab [disabled permit] for many, many months without getting a ticket.”
Bellospirito said she promptly paid the fine for the village violation, but it made her think about the overall issue. She decided to attend the Aug. 16 village board meeting, her first, and quickly gained the attention of the board as she recounted her story in a soft but steady voice and made the request.
“There are a lot of people with disabilities who enjoy Northport,” she said after the meeting. Allowing them to park in metered spaces for free "would just make it easier for people, handicap people, to enjoy their town," she added. "If I see that there’s no handicap parking and it’s hard for me to walk somewhere, I’m not going to walk all the way down the street.”
Mayor Damon McMullen said a policy change was worth considering and the board would take a look at the town’s code.
“I don’t think it’s such an unreasonable request,” McMullen said. “We’ll look at the code, look to see how many handicapped parking stickers are out there to get a general idea, talk to the treasurer to see about costs.”
He said village officials have wanted to add more handicap parking.
“But it’s not as easy as people think; there are codes involved,” McMullen said. “I can understand her point if you’re in a wheelchair and there are stairs: Can I get back out? Can I move my car? It’s worth considering.”