Southwest Wake News

Apex High off-campus parking comes to an end for students

After the Town of Apex granted students a temporary reprieve earlier this year, the town has said it will crack down on parking arrangements between Apex High School students and nearby property owners.

These parking arrangements, especially those that involve the exchange of money and cars parked on lawns, violate the town’s zoning ordinances, which regulate parking and the establishment of parking businesses. The Town Council, facing the twin problems of parking limitations on the high school’s campus and a lack of staff available to enforce the ordinance, voted in January to allow the arrangements to continue through the end of the school year in June. On June 21, the council voted to repeal the temporary permission.

Planning director Dianne Khin said in a July 1 letter that the town will have a compliance officer searching for student vehicles parked on lawns. The town always has enforced parking complaints but only has had the resources to do so in response to resident complaints.

A civil penalty of $100 per day or a one-time penalty of $500 can be assessed to property owners found to be in repeated violation of the town’s parking ordinances, although not before the town notifies the property owners and gives them an opportunity to comply, Khin said.

“Most of (compliance officers’) time is spent on development-related compliance,” Town Manager Drew Havens said. “Where we were falling short is proactive enforcement of our zoning code. We weren’t proactively enforcing issues like the parking related to the high school.”

Mayor Lance Olive said the town received complaints in fall 2015, related primarily to one property in the Knollwood neighborhood, where a rental property had about 10 cars parked on its lawn each school day.

“There might be some neighbors who allow one or two family friends to park on their space, but it never reached a level of causing concern,” Olive said. “This resident was a renter and used as much of the lawn as they could for the purpose of parking. They were essentially operating a parking business in residential zoning.”

A senior class that was about 250 students larger than usual likely was a factor in the increase in demand for off-campus parking, Apex High School Principal Diann Kearney said. Parking spaces are granted to seniors first, with the remaining spots being awarded to juniors through a lottery system. As at every other Wake County high school, students pay $170 for a year-long parking pass.

The sizable senior class, coupled with a diminished number of parking spaces due to building expansion and new mobile classrooms, meant the lottery for the 2015-16 school year was especially tight. Kearney said that drove juniors who hadn’t been among the fortunate few to seek parking elsewhere around the school.

“With 250 students fewer this year, we know we won’t be able to accommodate all students, but we do anticipate we’ll have not as much of a challenge,” she said.

The 2016-17 school ear will be Apex High School’s last in its current form. The school will be demolished and rebuilt between 2017 and 2019, and it is expected that the campus’ new, more efficient footprint will include a multi-level parking structure.

Gargan: 919-460-2604; @hgargan