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Attorney Questions Borough's Authority to Issue Parking Tickets

Dante Bradley is fighting some of the 1,400 citations the borough issued in June.

Phoenixville-based attorney Dante Bradley and a group of agitated Bridge Street shop owners are fighting the borough on many of the it issued en masse on June 8, after the second of its amnesty periods for unpaid parking tickets expired.

Bradley said his intention is to mount a two-pronged challenge on behalf of his six clients: he’ll first attempt to undermine the borough’s ticketing authority, then, if that fails, pick apart the individual tickets—of which his clients have amassed $6,000 worth.

“There are a number of irregularities that I think will make a lot of these citations unenforceable,” the lawyer said.

When the borough dissolved its parking authority in 2010, Bradley said it may have forfeited the right to issue parking citations.

“The borough instituted a temporary parking enforcement officer, who’s effectively become permanent…and since 2010 there’s been a nebulous enforcement officer instead of a parking authority,” he said, adding that this is highly unusual in Pennsylvania.

He admitted that because parking law in the state is an underdeveloped legal branch—“Usually when you get a ticket, it’s more expensive to fight it than it is to pay it,” Bradley said, “and so few cases go to court”—it’s unclear how persuasive this challenge will be. There’s no precedent for it.

Phoenixville finance director Steve Nease is skeptical of Bradley’s claims. He said the borough was well within its rights to issue the June citations.

“Our position is that we believe we have the authority to ticket. If [Bradley] disagrees, that’s his opinion,” the borough’s de facto parking manager told Patch.

Even if the ticketing is legal though, Bradley said it’s bad policy. He said the concern animating his clients, and underwriting the legal action they’ve taken, is that the two hour parking limit on Bridge Street is hurting their bottom line. Several restaurant and bar owners have told him they’ve suffered “a marked decrease in their revenue,” since the two hour parking rules were instituted.

“Some of the restaurant owners have gotten letters from patrons saying they’ve come in for dinner, had a wonderful time and a great meal, and come out and found a parking ticket on their car when they left. And it instantly sours the meal,” he said.

“And they’re never coming back to the borough to eat or to shop.”

Nease scoffed at this logic. He admitted that while the two hour parking limit may have an adverse effect on some businesses, the rules are hardly monolithically opposed by downtown shops. He said that high volume, quick turnover businesses like Save More and the benefit from the parking regulations. For the rest, there are lots that charge a dollar an hour for long-term parking.

“You can’t make everybody happy,” he shrugged.

Summer April 12, 2013 at 08:12 PM
No it is not okay i've been a resident well before phoeniville was the it place. these out of towners need to park on bridge st not take up all the parking on the streets. i live on it's ridiculous. enough is enough.
Ed Roper April 12, 2013 at 08:16 PM
I feel your pain. I really do. But like I said, nothing will ever get done about it unless you walk down and address it in front of the whole borough council. It'll take 15-20 minutes of your time. They will not be accountable unless you call them out on it.
Summer April 12, 2013 at 08:29 PM
No it's not ok i been living in the same house well before it was booming. they need to park on bridge st if they want to have a goodtime. not on my street
John April 12, 2013 at 08:33 PM
Thanks for the link, Ed. I found the following on Page 12 to be interesting: "Although the Central Business District is far from this “best case scenario” of utilization, the current state of revitalization warrants additional convenient public parking. Without providing additional parking, new businesses will be starved of the patrons necessary for success. Due to the current density of the Central Business District, a new at-grade parking lot will not be feasible to handle the future demands of this area. This study recommends one or more parking structures be developed to meet these needs. Construction of these structures should likely be phased to accommodate parking needs as they become necessary. Possibly a structure meeting 50% of the future parking demands should be constructed, with plans for more parking provisions as demand begins to warrant it. Due to the need for a central parking system in this District, a Parking Authority or similar body should be formed to continually monitor the parking needs in this area." In the page footer of the report you see "07/04", which seems to indicate that this report was written in July 2004. Later, on Page 22, the last line of the report states: "This Parking Study should be reviewed and updated every five to ten years, depending upon the rate of change or growth in a particular study area."
Ed Roper April 12, 2013 at 08:43 PM
Yep John. And updating it requires actual leadership from our council, which has been severely lacking for quite a while. Parking is, always was, and will continue to be a mess until we get new leadership.
harry finster April 12, 2013 at 08:48 PM
John, a parking structure (even one) would be ideal but not on the backs of the Phoenixville citizens. It will not happen that way. There isn't one person on council from the past, present and future who would ever suggest building a garage with taxes. Privately is a different story but there still needs to be a revenue stream to support a garage and those numbers (revenue) don't even approach what would be necessary for a garage. Again, it's ideal buy unfortunately it's not going to happen through the residents. The only way a garage happens is if the steel site begins development. Most likely one of the first structures would be parking for any new residents or office space rentals. It's a much easier sell for a developer to get commercial tenants for office spaces if parking is already in place. But that doesn't really help the current parking situation as it stands.
John April 12, 2013 at 09:31 PM
I'm sorry to say but you gentlemen are probably right. From the sound of things it seems nothing will get done. And that's too bad, because the result will limit the growth of the core downtown area. It might even have the effect of holding down the property values of the surrounding community as well.
harry finster April 12, 2013 at 10:11 PM
Good points John and that's why everyone has to support the development of the steel site. I know one of the arguments is that we already have housing that needs to be sold before development but that's the furthest thing from the truth. When the Iron Hill site was under development some in the surrounding community were strongly opposed to the idea for that very reason but there was a line outside of the empty lot the day they started bids for people who wanted new housing in the downtown that was affordable and had it's own parking. Now granted that was at the height of the bubble so there were plenty of loans to go around but it shows the demand is there. People want new housing and all the amenities that go along with new construction (ie plumbing, electrical, parking etc). People make the same argument for the commercial properties and it just shows how ignorant people are (and i mean that with all due respect) to the demands of new, larger corporations. You can't sell a business like Trader Joe's on moving to Pville in the old Print Shop location next to Diving Cat Studio in an old building. They'd laugh. A business on that level wants all the new amenities such as ample parking, new electrical and plumbing that can facilitate their many needs along with a proper loading dock, etc. So this is why the steel site needs to happen for Pville to continue on it's path to growth. I am hopeful that will one day happen but I'm not holding my breath that's for sure.
Ed Jones April 12, 2013 at 10:25 PM
For those of you that are leaving town to eat/drink/see moviies, etc. Just remember it takes gas, wears your tires and brakes, adds mileage (reducing your car's value), etc. Sure they have free parking, but if you only have to spend 3 hours in the movie/bar/restaurant that's $3 in parking fees. Which is less that what it will cost you to drive there and back. STOP BITCHING!
harry finster April 12, 2013 at 10:41 PM
Ed, those are some great points but the biggest point to be made is the parking fees to accommodate the downtown visitors is necessary. I remember when they had the parking meetings prior to the borough okaying the meters and one of the best points made was that this is not Phoenixville from the 90's. Phoenixville has grown into nice town for people to entertain themselves, friends and family and still enjoy a real town atmosphere. All of these visitors come at at cost and that cost of lighting, insurance, grading, lot maintenance and all the other costs was on the tax payer dime. So now it's payed for by the people that visit the town. Sure we had to back the original loan for the installation of the parking but now it's covering it's costs and by all accounts it should be with a small profit. It's definitely at an inconvenience to the surrounding community that lives on Bridge and Church, etc but the fact is the parking as it stood was not effective and was being abused with abandoned vehicles, trash dumpsters and Mr Tire was using it as a private lot for the cars they work on. This was all on our dime so although the parking program was and is an evil it's a necessary evil. It's a necessary evil. So Summer and Ed and the people that live in the parking zone definitely feel the pinch but that's what comes with living in a downtown that caters to as many visitors as Phoenixville. Somehow we need to support Ed and everyone around that area and still serve the visitors.
Alex P April 13, 2013 at 03:21 AM
Everyone seems to ignore the fact that parking even in the lots is limited to a timed 2 hours, you can't pay for 3 unless you stop what you're doing to go back to it. And moreso everyone is ignoring the business owners and employees that actually keep people coming to the town. Pay for a parking pass? sure when there's guaranteed spots, sorry i'm not paying $20/month to eventually get ticketed anyways for parking on the street when i can't find a spot in a designated lot. Also not walking 2 blocks to where it's free or another lot when at the end of the night i have cash in my pocket. Say that after a kid got killed over a few hundred dollars. The facts remain that the borough started a parking authority, terminated it then continued to issue tickets. And the thousands of tickets they sent out in mass, the majority were past the statute of limitations and the borough had no legal right to do so collecting thousands of dollars under false pretenses, extortion is what most would call it.
Alex P April 13, 2013 at 03:30 AM
you want to defend a system that is so corrupt they knowingly submitted and sent out citations through the court system that they had ZERO LEGAL RIGHT TO DO SO then collected money from their own citizens, visitors, business owners, and employees? if you can honestly do that then maybe you need to have your head examined. The borough may find some random loophole in the law that allows them to do what they're doing but that doesn't make it right and it definitely doesn't make it good for business. The number one complaint i hear even on the streets is about the parking authority, they will single handedly kill this town again. Your tax dollars at work paying for for a corrupt system run by the borough's finance manager, if that doesn't say enough then i don't know what does. Blatant conflict of interest when it comes to what's best for the people and how the borough can make a few bucks.
jk April 15, 2013 at 04:05 PM
thats cool how you own the public street - i'm guessing you also mark off "your" spot when it snows?
Area Patch Reader April 15, 2013 at 04:33 PM
I feel sorry for people in Summer's situation. I use to live in West Chester and know how it sucks to come home from a hard day and have to park two blocks from your house but it is what it is. You want to live walking distance to the best part of town, that is the price you pay. I'm sure businesses downtown have increased the the value of her home so she can sell, make a profit and move further south where parking isn't an issue. If she rents, she can not renew her lease and again move further south. We all have choices in the world and crying at a Council meeting (where you'll just get ignored or told what you want to hear at the time with no resulting action) should be last on the list.
Area Patch Reader April 15, 2013 at 04:47 PM
Uh, how is me exercising my legal rights to appeal a ticket and actually BEATING the case and having them admit they were wrong and withdrawl the ticket me having "my mommy take care of it"? You are one strange fellow. Again my advice to anyone that gets a ticket in a non metered spot in town is DO NOT PAY IT! Fight in in court on general principle. When enough people beat them in court, they will eventually have to back down. People who refuse to learn and use the law don't deserve freedom and and easy marks to get robbed by scams like this "parking authority".
Area Patch Reader April 15, 2013 at 04:49 PM
Yeah, driving to Collegeville, Royerford, Oaks, etc...is really killing my car. LOL! It's the principle for fool, not the money. When people get bogus tickets, they don't come back regardless of how much it is. Period.
Area Patch Reader April 15, 2013 at 04:50 PM
Keep up the good fight Alex and Dante Bradley most of us whom actually know the law support you 100%!
Alex P April 15, 2013 at 07:14 PM
There are exactly 247 metered parking spots in all 3 lots that the borough allows for employee parking permits, residential parking permits, and visitor metered parking. and an additional 37 spots for metered parking only. Do the math and then say that there is enough parking for everyone that works, lives and visits this town. And i'm sure if you owned or worked at a business where your patrons were ticketed for visiting and your bottom line was affected you wouldn't so rashly defend the parking office.
harry finster April 15, 2013 at 07:28 PM
Alex, it's for that very reason that you should be in favor of a managed parking system. With all of this extra use since P'ville became popular their was more of a demand for "available" parking which meant that cars needed to be moving on a consistent type of flow pattern. Also the increased demand for lot maintenance, lighting, regrading, monitoring and general cleaning was being paid for by the citizens of P'ville (some that may never use the lots). It only makes sense that the people that use the lots pay for the lots just as each homeowner who as their own parking (ie garage) pays for their parking in the price of their home. Everyone pays to park. But no doubt that it just sucks since it was free for so long when P'ville wasn't a busy town. It's absolutely an extra burden if you live in close proximity to the downtown (which I do) but it's one that comes along with living in this type of situation.
Alex P April 15, 2013 at 07:31 PM
Wait.... so the parking authority is issuing tickets on Hall street? What are the tickets for? Because any citizen can look through the borough code and see that parking is not limited on Hall street. And if they are indeed issuing tickets in anything other than parking prohibited or handicapped zones then they are violating the law by doing so.
Alex P April 15, 2013 at 07:44 PM
My concern and argument doesn't stem from the fact that there needs to be a parking management system, it's simply the fact that the one the borough has in place is not working. Cars moving on a consistent flow pattern is one thing, but how many people work in the business center? If every business employee purchased a parking permit there would never be enough spaces in the specified 3 lots and since the borough doesn't allow for the permits to be used for on street parking where should the workers park? add in residents and visitors and you get exactly what is happening now too much demand not enough supply. And if they park on the street you can't honestly ask someone to leave work every two hours to move their car. I lived right on prospect street and had a parking pass for some time, i received a lot of tickets because if i came home at night (esp. on a fri or sat) there would be no spots left in the specified lots. I park on the street and get a ticket even though i had a permit. The system is failing, it's always been failing, the borough council doesn't know what they are doing and won't listen to the citizens. They listen to the ones that complain about visitors parking because that's all that supports their argument and all they want is more money. They make laws then revise and justify them as they go along instead of doing things properly from the start.
harry finster April 15, 2013 at 07:47 PM
Make no mistake about it Alex, they are making money off the citizens that live around the area and the workers but your points are good ones.
Alex P April 15, 2013 at 07:55 PM
They are also wasting a ton of money too. They still pay wages for the parking enforcement officers to go to court all 3 in fact instead of one on the street as other days, they pay legal representation fees when a borough solicitor gets involved, they pay Mr. Niese and other borough representatives to go to court. And more and more people are fighting tickets. And after all that is said and done what they do win is just the $20 they originally ticketed for as all court costs go directly back to the court system. So after they've spent thousands to pay people to go to court how much are they really getting back from it?
harry finster April 15, 2013 at 08:19 PM
According to the last Borough report they were on track to make a profit for the year with parking. I don't have a copy of the report but I do remember seeing it. Sorry the bad reference. I agree with you on a lot of your points but where I fall off is that it's corrupt and other stuff like that. There's just no evidence of that but I do believe there are faulty tickets written all the time. You have to expect that with any human element involved. I've gotten tickets myself a few times and it's never good for the blood pressure.
harry finster April 15, 2013 at 08:25 PM
Also, I'm not saying we don't need to stay on top of this. We do as a matter of fact. And people need to voice their opinions so all concerns are heard and if enough voices have a consistent theme then hopefully a light goes off and something can be done to resolve the issue. But just to say we should go back to free parking without a managed situation is not reasonable (which is what a lot of people say). The parking was a nightmare before the parking meters were installed but I think it's less of nightmare then before regarding finding a parking space. It's definitely inconvenient but I do feel like there's always a space to park (short of Firebird and other super busy events) if you're willing to pay a few dollars. I think we should all remember we're on the same team even if we have different viewpoints.
Alex P April 15, 2013 at 10:37 PM
my comment about corruption came from the original story, the borough had the district court send out over 1,400 tickets in one day in June, many of which dating back almost a year. The statute of limitations on prosecution is one month. They valued each citation at $66.45. that's a total just over $93,000. A safe estimate would be that 1,200 of those tickets were past the one month statute of limitation. which means they overcharged and collected approximately $75-80,000 in revenue that they had no legal right to. And did so with the threat of government and prosecution. Granted everyone could have looked up this information and fought it but they didn't so that money is lost. But that is the ONLY way the borough will turn a profit this past fiscal year. And if you can tell me that collecting money under false pretenses and without legal grounds doesn't qualify as corruption then there's a problem. And in my opinion if everyone knew this as well as my experiences with the parking office in court over several occasions and appeals and the patch were to do another story the parking situation in phoenixville could become the forefront of council meetings from here on out.
harry finster April 15, 2013 at 11:37 PM
Alex, I think you're a little misguided on much of the information and the statute of limitations etc but I won't really argue about it. The start of the parking system was definitely not very well conceived and it set a bad precedent but the overall system will eventually work. People always feel like something has been taken away from them when parking is instituted like a constitutional right. It's really kind of funny but it's just parking and the it's the borough trying to do the best thing for their local community. If you don't like the way things are done then the best I can tell you is to be much more vocal in meetings and don't give up. Or even better is you can run for local government and do something about it that will make sense for the entire community and not just the people that live near the downtown in very close proximity. I think you understanding of local government is slightly skewed and this isn't Watergate. Again, the best thing to do is run for a local seat and enact your own vision and lead us in the right direction. Being on a local government doesn't make you a politician. It makes you involved in your community in a very big capacity that is very important. Be part of the change or you'll just have to accept the changes that people who take that initiative themselves make and some you won't like very much. But again these are just regular people trying to help their community. If you have evidence otherwise then present it.
Alex P April 15, 2013 at 11:59 PM
I highly doubt the parking office would allow me to look at their records to verify my information. As much as you may think my views are skewed i've probably had more dealings with the parking office than anyone in phoenixville both with and without a lawyer. my numbers may not be grounded, however the fact they did send out citations that were past the statute of limitations cannot be argued it's a matter of court record. I had close to 40 tickets in my first go around with them and only until i went to court and presented that statute did they withdraw those citations. As much as it may seem like a big conspiracy theory it's really not and it's grounded in facts whether people can see or understand that or not. and as much as you can say i'm misguided for defending myself, you, yourself are a bit misguided for believing that even a local municipality like this one isn't big enough for some form of corruption or extortion. It's the basis sentimentality that when someone is appointed a position of power they can abuse it no matter how small a position it is. It may not seem so but they had sent out letters they described as a "grace period" to pay months before actually submitting to the court though they were already past the statute. If you do your research you'll learn what the state has to say and the state law trumps local code. And lets face it speaking up in council meetings doesn't do anything when you're speaking up against their form of making money.
Alex P April 16, 2013 at 12:00 AM
As you said the overall parking system "will EVENTUALLY work". if the borough had done their homework it wouldn't need to eventually work. They waste the courts time with paperwork and citations without giving people an option to contest a ticket before it goes in front of a judge and additional costs are added wasting more taxpayer money to do so. There is no check, no balance to the system on this level. Speaking out at meetings doesn't do anything unless the people on the council at least listen, and they are not always so open minded to both sides of the coin.
Ike April 16, 2013 at 02:18 AM
Go to a MALL.....Free parking and cheaper everything.......

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