May 17, 2022

Downtown lots now allow back-in and head-in parking

Newton also prohibits trailers from parking in the free municipal lots

Head-in only parking designations have been removed from the municipal lots in downtown Newton. To make sure this updated ordinance does not open up the opportunity for trailers to park in the free public lots, the city has hereby restricted drivers from parking their trailers in these areas.

Although traffic engineers consistently agree backing into a parking stall is safer than head-in parking, the current design of the city’s municipal lots causes some issues with long trucks or trucks with hitches. These vehicles can partially block sidewalks if they park in the outside row and back into the parking lot curb line.

During its Jan. 3 meeting, Newton City Council adopted the updated ordinance, which also included cleaner language adding code enforcement officers to the violation reporting and enforcement section. The amendment also removed “Clean Up Time” from the ordinance title.

Newton Mayor Mike Hansen said during the Dec. 6 city council meeting he was made aware of the parking issue in spring 2021. Council member Evelyn George also said she was contacted by several residents about the problem in the past year, and she appreciated the traffic safety committee reviewing the situation.

Staff had contacted Newton Main Street, Newton Area Chamber of Commerce and Destination Downtown Newton about the proposed changes. All three groups — whose representing businesses often need the lots for customers —provided favorable feedback regarding the proposal.

Council member Mark Hallam and now-former council member Dean Stonner wanted to know why the municipal lots were originally designated as head-in only parking. Newton Police Chief Rob Burdess said head-in only parking was the standard in city lots for two reasons:

“We had parking meters, so that contributed to the need to park with your head in. And we also used to have parking permits. The permits would hang from your rear view mirror. Our parking enforcement folks would walk in a consistent line in front of these cars to determine if they were permitted or not,” Burdess said.

Head-in only parking was the safest and easiest way for code enforcement staff. If there was no head-in only parking, officers would have to weave in and out of cars, which Burdess said would cause a dangerous situation. In 2016, the city removed permit parking and metered parking in the downtown municipal lots.

“Probably one of the best decisions council did for downtown businesses and for my department,” Burdess said, noting the work did not have much enforcement.

So, now, the only real risk of removing head-in only parking designations is the issues longer vehicles might create. Burdess noted the city has ordinances that allow officers to enforce this violation with a ticket if it is observed. Other instances of longer vehicles colliding could occur, too, he added.

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or cbraunschweig@newtondailynews.com

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig has a strong passion for community journalism and covers city council, school board, politics and general news in Newton, Iowa and Jasper County.