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Hatton compares parking ordinance to Nazi Germany

Marie Havenga • Apr 21, 2017 at 10:00 AM

Spring Lake Village President Joyce Hatton thinks the village's proposed parking ordinance is so smothering that she said it reminds her of the Holocaust in Nazi Germany.

During a Village Council work session Monday night, Hatton said she had watched a four-hour television special on the Holocaust the day before.

“I could only think of this when I saw people can apply for a license (to park in the village right of way of streets with no curb or gutters),” she said. “Why do people have to have a license at all? This is their property. They've lived there for a long time.”

Village Manager Chris Burns was appalled at Hatton’s comment.

“I just am so shocked — I don't know what else to say,” Burns said. “I'm not sure how you can draw an analogy between the two.”

During a phone interview seeking clarification on her comments, Hatton said she thinks the village would be like “a police state” if it adopts the new parking ordinance.

“By accusing them of acting like Hitler did with the Jews is pretty tough talk,” Hatton said of her work session comments.

Asked if she regretted making the comments, Hatton replied, “No, not at all.”

“The point to me is the whole idea of citizens in a small village all having to register so that they can put their cars on their own property,” she said. “It reminded me so of the Elie Wiesel book called 'Night,' which they read for four hours on ‘Book TV’ (C-SPAN2 channel). I was mesmerized with how the thing started and one thing led to another to another.”

During World War II, at the age of 15, Wiesel, his family and other Jews were rounded up in Hungary by Nazis and deported to German concentration and extermination camps. His parents and little sister perished there. Wiesel and his two older sisters survived. Wiesel died last summer at the age of 87.

Hatton said his televised memoir about Nazi Germany and the Holocaust was fascinating.

“The first thing they did was took away their money,” Hatton said. “The second thing they had to register. Third, they had to wear a yellow flower. It was the whole idea to me — it sounded like a police state. Jews had to register and wear a yellow badge.”

Hatton said she thinks the village’s proposed parking ordinance and the requirements to register to park on the right of way — pay a $5 fee; put down a solid surface parking pad such as asphalt, concrete or dolomite; park parallel to the street and in only one direction; and keep the area weed-free — are over the top.

“I thought the whole thing was just so out of character for caring about the citizens,” Hatton said. “The reason you're representing these people, the reason you're elected, is to take care of them and make life more comfortable and easier. Some work two jobs. To make demands on the people and then to punish them if they don't do exactly what you want — it's so much like a police state, just the idea of it.”

Councilman Mark Powers said he, too, was shocked at Hatton’s analogy.

“Comparing the Village of Spring Lake's parking ordinance to the treatment of Jewish people prior to the Holocaust in Nazi Germany is mortifying,” he said. “That is not something I feel was appropriate. It was a theater of the absurd. I felt terrible.”

Powers said he was initially opposed to the proposed parking ordinance, but has since changed his mind. He said he has been told that parking in the right of way is illegal both under state law and village ordinance.

Current village law prohibits parking in the right of way, but officers have not been issuing tickets until the ordinance issue is sorted out.

“Parking between the street and sidewalk on the easement probably is a safety issue in many cases,” Powers said. “I got a few tickets this winter for parking my car in the street during the wrong month. Fair enough. I'm not supposed to do it.”

Hatton said she is working on an autobiography. The woman who is helping her with it lives on one of the village's curb-less streets.

“If no more than one vehicle may park in a parking space, what do we do with the people who come visit?' Hatton asked.

The ordinance allows visitors to park in the right of way for the short term. There are also provisions for handicap parking and for church-goers to park in the right of way on Sunday mornings.

Hatton said she thinks it would be fair if churches paid parking permit fees, too.

Hatton said at Monday's work session that she has a personal interest in the parking matter. Her daughter plans to move into a home that has no curb or gutter and would fall under the ordinance provisions.

Burns suggested to Hatton that she should consider abstaining from voting on the issue because it could be perceived as a conflict of interest. Hatton agreed, but also pointed out that Councilwoman MeganDoss lives on an affected street.

Burns said the parking ordinance has been a “conundrum” since she took over as village manager in 2012, and she has been directed by council to enforce existing ordinances. Residents parking in the rights of way has been a long-standing problem, she said.

“It's one thing if you have to park in the front lawn because you're unloading groceries,” Burns said. “What we're discussing here is the ongoing degeneration of the property in front of their homes because they're using it as ‘redneck parking.’”

A public hearing on the ordinance that would spell out rules for parking in the village rights of way is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday at Barber School.

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