Crowding at Apex High School has spilled off campus and into the surrounding streets, with at least 15 students parking on yards and then walking to school this year.
The school’s senior class is bigger than ever, and they got first priority on parking. That meant some juniors had to look elsewhere. A handful of nearby homeowners saw an opportunity to make some money by renting out their lawns for the students’ cars.
There were two problems, however. Doing so violates town ordinances, and not all of the homeowners like seeing makeshift parking lots in their neighborhood. Neighbors began complaining in the fall, but Apex didn’t inspect until this winter.
On Feb. 16, the Town Council voted unanimously to let the students continue to park until the end of the school year, as long as the homeowners pay for a temporary permit. Residents who try to run an unpermitted parking lot after June, though, could face fines. That applies townwide, not just in the Knollwood neighborhood where this issue arose.
Apex High junior J.T. Murphy and several of his classmates stayed until the end of the town’s five-hour meeting to state their case. Some left as the meeting dragged on, but they passed the time by doing homework during other public hearings.
“There’s five of us left, and it’s 11:30 at night,” Murphy said. “We feel very strongly about this.”
Mayor Lance Olive commended the teenagers for taking part in the civic process.
“If I could give you extra credit, I would,” he said.
The students argued that they can’t take the bus because they play sports or work after school, and their parents also can’t pick them up.
Council member Denise Wilkie is an Apex High teacher. She said next year’s junior class won’t be nearly as big because of the new Apex Friendship High School, which opened this year, so parking shouldn’t be an issue again.
She also told the students this is a good lesson in elected officials having to choose between two groups who want different outcomes.
“The Town Council is going out on a limb for you,” Wilkie said. “And it would be nice of you to write a thank you note to the council.”
For the miffed neighbors, it might instead be a lesson in town budgeting.
Apex’s zoning compliance staff is stretched so thin that it took them several months to respond to the initial complaints. The town planning director previously told the council that even if they decided to crack down on parking, it would probably take another few months for inspectors to check on the neighborhood.
Those delays were considered when the council decided to let the issue slide for the rest of the year.
Doran: 919-460-2604; Twitter: @will_doran