NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

June 19, 2008

Request spurs parking debate on High Street

NEWBURYPORT — Cheryl Short's knee problems started in the fourth grade and, now at 40 years old, the problems have only grown worse through the decades.

Short is disabled by a degenerative cartilage disease. In both knees, she said the cartilage is almost totally gone, forcing her to have two surgeries in as many years. The problems also forced doctors to remove a kneecap, causing stability problems, and she will undergo total knee replacement in the coming years.

She also has arthritis.

Now, the High Street resident is looking for City Council approval to create a handicap parking spot in front of her home to make everyday chores such as grocery shopping and laundry — tasks that can be problematic — easier endeavors.

"There are times I don't go out because I know I'm not going to get a parking space (when I return)," she said, adding that a handicap spot "would mean more freedom to be able to live."

The proposal is now before the council's Public Safety Committee, where it is sponsored by Councilor Greg Earls, the councilor for Ward 2, where Short lives. The committee will meet about and could vote on the matter July 30, said Steve Hutcheson, chairman of the committee.

But what may seem like an easy decision to help a Newburyport resident is complicated by city regulations.

It is not legal, for instance, to create a handicap parking spot for one individual, councilors say, even though the parking spot Short is seeking would not be private. Councilors also worry that even if the spot isn't private, it could set a precedent for others in the city to seek such spaces in front of houses.

"There are a lot of people around town who might want a handicap space in front of their house," Hutcheson said.

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