The board voted Tuesday to adopt a new county parking lot ordinance.
The ordinance is designed to prevent overnight parking at county lots, such as the 58th District Court in Holland and the 20th Circuit Court in Grand Haven. County officials say the Grand Haven courthouse parking lot becomes difficult to manage during the annual Coast Guard Festival, which takes place during the final week of July and early August.
RV owners visiting the city have used the parking lot to stay in overnight. Ottawa County Administrator Al Vanderberg told commissioners that, occasionally, this has prevented residents from being able to access county services.
The new ordinance would place a fine up to $500 for any vehicle parked in a county lot or closed county park between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.
An opponent of the measure, Angela Maxwell, voiced her opposition of the policy during the meeting’s public comment session. Maxwell is a homeless outreach specialist for Community Action House in Ottawa County, and said this ordinance would create stress on the some of the people she works with that are forced to sleep in their cars overnight. By levying a fine on a vulnerable population, she believes the measure would create further challenges for stabilization.
“I just urge everyone to think about what kind of consequences exacerbate those circumstances,” Maxwell said.
District 3 Commissioner Doug Zylstra was the lone vote against the measure, citing concerns over the vulnerable homeless population, as well as the fine amount.
“I definitely would not want Ottawa County to be part of the problem (of homelessness),” Zylstra said. “We want to avoid the unintended downsides.”
Zylstra told commissioners that his vote against the measure came with a stipulation that the ordinance could be amended in the future.
Vanderberg added that because parking enforcement is on a complaint basis, there wouldn’t be dedicated staff toward issuing parking citations in county lots overnight.