Dance school draws neighbor’s ire

Parents accused of blocking avenue, taking parking spaces

A neighbor of the Blair Dance Academy complained Wednesday to City Council that parents of academy students routinely block the avenue in front of the school when they drop off and pick up their kids and that they take up parking places on the street that neighbors like for themselves.

Academy owner Rebecca Reese said afterward that she routinely urges the parents to use her spacious parking lot in back and to be “mindful of the neighborhood.” But she said she “can only do so much.”

City staffers plan to confer today to determine how they might alleviate the problem, said Planning Director — and dance student parent — Lee Slusser, who confirmed that Reese asks parents to use the back lot.

“She’s making our lives miserable,” said neighbor Scott Lantz of the academy owner. “It’s ridiculous.”

Lantz has called the police, and he’s called the academy itself, to no avail, he said.

The street blockage is continuous during much of the evening from Monday to Thursday, and if he leaves in his car, he needs to park away, then repark the car after the rush, which is annoying, he said.

He has asked the city for a residents-only parking designation near the school but was told the city doesn’t offer that courtesy, he said.

He doesn’t understand why not, given that Smithfield Township, which hosts a state correctional institution where he works, does so for neighbors of the prison.

The city’s approach to finding a solution will include determining whether dropping off and picking up the students in the travel lanes of West Chestnut Avenue are traffic violations, Slusser said.

Slusser isn’t sure whether the Dance Academy’s land development plan, presumably approved by the Planning Commission, included an order for Reese to enforce the use of the rear lot, he said.

But under current ordinances, there’s nothing to stop those parents from parking in legal spaces on the street, he said.

Maybe it would help if Reese required parents to use the school’s side or rear entrance, said Councilman Michael Haire, who added that he didn’t know if the city could “make her do (so).”

“But if she did it on her own, that would be great,” he said.

Lantz wasn’t exaggerating the problem, Slusser said.

“I’m surprised no one came sooner,” he said.

The academy, on the 2900 block of West Chestnut Avenue, has 300 students who are scheduled from one to four times a week, Reese said.

There are classes on the hour and the half-hour from 4:30 to 9 p.m. weekdays, with the busiest times being Monday to Wednesday, Reese said.

She conceded the flow is continuous because of the staggered times, which are designed to minimize the congestion at any one time.

Despite Wednesday’s complaint, the school has a good relationship with most neighbors, many of whom were glad to see the school take over the property because it eliminated loitering that used to occur there, she said.

The neighbors also benefit from the use of her parking lot on weekends and holidays, which she doesn’t mind, she said.

“I’m trying to be as neighborly and friendly as I can,” she said, adding that she’ll reiterate her plea for parents to be likewise.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.