‘That’s a Parked Car’: Officials Uphold Town Woman’s Ticket

New Canaan’s Parking Commission last week upheld a $25 parking violation issued to a town woman who said that because she sat inside her vehicle while it was running to take a phone call, that she should not have been cited for overtime parking in a 15-minute zone at Morse Court.

Alexandra Lawer told the volunteer commission during its Sept. 14 meeting that she received a call on her cell phone as she was driving through town on July 17, so she decided to park at Morse Court in a short-term parking space next to J. Crew to answer the call.

“I was sitting there ‘standing’ with my car on,” she told the commissioners at the meeting during her appeal, held at Town Hall. “I only had a 15-minute conversation, so it didn’t make sense for me to turn off my car. I saw the officer mark my tire, but I didn’t say anything [to him] because I was on the phone. So [after the call] I went into J. Crew, made a quick exchange and when I came back out, I got a ticket.”

Lawer explained that although her car was stationed in that spot, she considered it to be “standing” as opposed to “parking” because she never turned the engine off. “The sign says, ‘no parking,’ it doesn’t say, ‘no standing,’” she said.

When Chairman Keith Richey asked Lawer to clarify whether her car was parked in the spot, Lawer answered “no” because her “foot was on the brake the entire time.”

To her appeal, Lawer added that “people make mistakes.” She referred to the enforcement officer who wrote the ticket and the Parking Bureau itself, because Lawer said she was sent a letter to her home incorrectly stating that she was to appear at July 6 hearing. In response, Stacy Miltenberg, superintendent of the Parking Bureau, confirmed that Lawer did initially receive the wrong type of notice from the bureau, but a corrected notice was sent afterward.

“I’m just saying that people make mistakes and the officer made the mistake of marking my car when I wasn’t parked,” Lawer said.

Richey explained to Lawer how the commission defines a parked car.

“Whether you’re in there talking, whether your mother’s in there, whether your uncle’s in there or anyone is in there, if the car’s there and it’s not moving and it’s in that spot, that’s a parked car,” he said. “It doesn’t make a difference [whether it’s running or not] because then anyone can just leave their car running. Someone could leave their car running and then go to New York City.”

Lawer told Richey that she felt there should be a “certain amount of discretion” when it came to officers marking cars depending on the situation each driver might be experiencing. “When your officers [are patrolling] and they see someone pulling out [of a parking spot] or waiting to pull out, they’re often not marking their tires.”

Richey replied that officers are expected to check on “anybody and everybody that’s parked there.”

“Whether the driver is there or not, the car is still [parked] there,” he said. “…My wife likes to talk on her cell phone while walking the dogs, but it’s still walking the dogs and you were still in a parked car.”

Lawer said she understood the commission’s definition of a parked car, but then compared the town’s “no parking” sign to similar signs found at airports.

“When you go to the airport, there’s sign the says ‘no standing or parking’ and there is a difference there,” she said. “And that’s where I’m differentiating. And I understand that you’re not, but I honestly wouldn’t go through this if I thought that there was a difference. But I understand that from your view, there’s not.”

Richey questioned why Lawer didn’t just pull into one of the spots at Morse Court instead of the 15-minute zone. “That’s very limited and short-term parking,” he said. “You’re right there in Morse Court, you could have taken the extra few minutes, parked in a spot there and paid for that spot, and then been on your way and then you wouldn’t have received a ticket.”

With little discussion about Lawer’s appeal, the commission voted unanimously a few minutes later to uphold her ticket.

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