School seeks parking ban for 'Lover's Lane'

Newton-Conover High School leaders want to prohibit parking on a street near school grounds because they believe students are going to the area to engage in sexual activity and deal drugs.

"We have had three or four phone calls in the past school year from residents on the street about behavior that they had witnessed out of our students," Newton-Conover High School Principal Kevin Campbell said, adding that since students are parking off school grounds and engaging in illegal behavior, only Newton Police or the school resource officer can address the problems. "We want to be good neighbors with the people around us."

By asking Newton Police to prohibit parking on the 1500 block of North Deal Avenue, Campbell said he hopes students could no longer hide in a secluded area that is out of school officials' line-of-sight.

However, if Newton City Council bans parking along the road behind the NCHS softball field, students won't be the only ones required to find a new place to park. Residents on the street would also lose their parking spaces.

"If you go back and look at the residences, every house on the street has a car parked on the street, including us," said North Deal Avenue resident Robert Reitzel Jr. "Practically every house on the street parks there. ... We can't park in our yard. We have to find a place to park."

Newton Police Chief Don Brown brought the parking prohibition request to Newton City Council on Tuesday.

"There is no reason for the students to be parking there, because there is adequate parking," Brown said. "Drug activity has been detected, and there is sexual activity that has gone on down there."

Campbell said as he fielded complaints from residents along North Deal Avenue, one resident reported finding three used condoms in their yard.

"Do I know that was our students? No. Is the likelihood that it was? Yes. Did it happen during school time? Maybe," Campbell said, adding that in addition to forcing car-driving students back on school grounds, a parking prohibition might help resolve litter problems in the area. "I don't have any jurisdiction over there."

As Brown brought the issue to City Council on Tuesday, he also brought a petition signed by five of seven residents along the road. The petition was circulated by a uniformed school resource officer.

Reitzel, and his father Red Reitzel, share a residence on the street, and they were among two property owners who didn't sign the petition.

"I don't believe in a policeman carrying a petition around. I think that is coercion. They might sign a petition when ordinarily they wouldn't do it," Red said.

Further, the school resource officer indicated to property owners that the parking ban would only apply to students, he said.

"The neighbors are under the impression they can still park on the street," Robert Reitzel said.

Brown said a parking ban would apply to all vehicles on the roadway. Parking on the street would result in a $10 ticket he said — for residents and students alike.

"I think it is bad that neighbors are being hurt by somebody else's problem," said Council member Wayne Dellinger.

Options for parking bans during certain hours of the day were discussed, and Campbell said most problems are occurring before school, or near the end of the day, when some students return from internships.

Council also discussed posting a no parking sign, and Mayor Pro Tem Anne Stedman suggested residents of the street receive parking permits.

"Our cars and the neighbors' cars are parked there all day long," Robert Reitzel said.

At 7:45 a.m. on Wednesday, The O-N-E spotted two cars parked on the street in front of residences. At 2:45 p.m., there were six vehicles parked along the street.

"My concern is that maybe you have got students that are maybe breaking school rules and are breaking the laws in some instances," said Council member Robert Abernethy Jr. "I don't know that a 'no parking' sign is going to deter them from going down there and looking for privacy."

Council member Bill Lutz requested the matter be tabled so street residents can be notified that a parking ban would apply to them, too.

No further action was taken.

"The school system and the neighbors have come to us for help," said Newton Mayor Robert Mullinax. "We have seven houses up there, and we are trying to deal with parking. We ought to be able to deal with this."