Newton combats 'Lover's Lane'

Newton banned parking along "Lover's Lane" near Newton-Conover High School, and some residents of the North Deal Avenue block aren't happy about it.

"I don't like it," said North Deal Avenue resident Red Reitzel.

Another resident of the street, Michael Jackson, said city officials should "leave it alone like it is," even though Newton Police says NCHS students are parking along the street to engage in drug and sexual activity.

"If you put up 'no parking signs' you are putting a burden on us," Jackson said. "My kids, they come by during the day. They come by and visit and just park in front of the house. If you put a up a 'no parking' sign, it will interfere with every house on the street."

During its regular monthly meeting Newton City Council heard comments from some of the eight residents along the 1500 block of North Deal Avenue. While the meeting didn't include an official public hearing, Newton Mayor Robert Mullinax said he wanted to give residents an opportunity to "say what is on their mind."

While most comments voiced during Tuesday's meeting opposed a parking ban, not everyone along the street was against it, according to one Council member.

"I have a co-worker who lives on the street," said Council member Bill Lutz, who works at Twin City Insurance in Newton. "She is one that is very annoyed with the continuous trash and debris in her yard.

(Students) sit out there smoking pot, and it is an inconvenience to her. She would like to see something done."

Former Newton-Conover High School Resource Officer Steve Hendon also said he received complaints from North Deal Avenue residents.

"Last year there was an extremely heightened amount of volume of drug activity and unsavory things happening before and immediately after school," he said, adding one resident complained about students apparently "cleaning out their car into her lawn."

"They asked us two years ago if there was anything we could to do have the kids not back there," he said. "Before and after school, if I am not in the parking lot, drug activity and sexual acts occur on a regular basis."

Situated beside the NCHS softball field, a large part of the North Deal Avenue block is obscured from school officials' view, he said.

Following comments from street residents, Newton City Council voted unanimously to prohibit parking along the 1500 block of North Deal Avenue. The parking ban will only apply to school days and will be in effect during the hours of 7-9 a.m. and 1-3 p.m. Newton Police Chief Don Brown said officers will patrol the area during those hours "as much as possible."

"Once we issue parking citations, that should deter the students from parking there," he said, adding that prohibiting parking on North Deal Avenue would send students back into the school parking lot, where "administrators of the school can enforce their rules and regulations."
Reitzel disagreed.

"If we put signs up where they are going, then they will go down to Frye (Avenue). You will have the same thing all over again," he said. "I think it needs to be settled some way other than 'no parking.' That will be a handicap to a lot of people."

Still, after media publicity of the parking debate, some positive results may occur. North Deal Avenue resident Robbie Reitzel Jr. also suggested a way to combat the problem beyond a parking ban.

"Have the parents been contacted?" he asked. "One of the parents called us. They saw an article (in the newspaper) and they called and apologized to us. She wasn't aware her son was causing problems which leads me to believe the parents haven't been contacted."