Parents' parking at bus stop fuels flap


Article Courtesy of  The Palm Beach Post

By Michael C. Bender
Published March 12, 2005


PALM CITY When the school bus picks up youngsters from an affluent neighborhood here, the driver can expect to find more than just the kids waiting.

Some days, there are neighbors videotaping the scene.

Other days, Martin County sheriff's deputies are on hand to keep the peace.

But every day, it seems to those involved, some kind of drama swirls around the corner of Mapp Road and Falcon Street, where school district officials said buses have been picking up children for at least 15 years.

"This whole thing is ludicrous," said Dina Colantrello, a resident of the Four Rivers neighborhood. Her 6-year-old son uses the bus stop.

Colantrello and parents of about 10 other elementary-school students say they have been harassed for several months by some members of the homeowners association board and other residents about driving their children to the bus stop.

She said new signs have been planted near the stop warning residents not to park or stand on the homeowner association-owned land. Instead, the board wants the parents to wait 200 yards away from the intersection.

"We can't even see the bus from there," Colantrello said. "And when it does come, there is a mad dash down the street."

Some board members, who did not return phone calls seeking comment, have petitioned the Martin County School Board to remove the bus stop.

Gary Hills, who lives across from the stop and videotapes the scene for the homeowners board, said parents who drive to the stop and wait for the bus cause safety problems, violate the homeowners association bylaws and create liability risks for the community.

"I know the (homeowners) board of directors is trying to find ways to accommodate the school buses to the best of their ability and the kids to the best of their ability. But above and beyond that are safety and liability issues of the association," Hills said.

Hills said community bylaws prevent parking on the street or on the grass near the stop. He said the board has tried to move the stop to another neighborhood and asked parents to carpool to reduce the traffic.

Colantrello said parents have requested the association, which collects dues of $650 per year from about 100 households in the neighborhood, pay about $2,000 to widen the road near the bus stop.

"It's clear they won't be happy until this bus stop is gone," Colantrello said.

Parents have called Martin County sheriff's deputies to ask Hills to stop videotaping their children.

Geret Weisenseel, a former president of the homeowners association, and resident Eric Champlin were recently stopped by Martin County sheriff deputies for taking photos of other bus stops in the area.

"We've done a lot of volunteer work for research," Champlin said of the photos. "We pay high taxes in here and pay them happily, but we should really see more support and participation from the school district and the county. The school district should really be more constructive and more involved."

In a letter to the school board, which some parents say was not approved by their homeowners group, Weisenseel requested the bus stop be moved.

But school officials said the stop will not be changed and the neighborhood must find a way to solve the issue.

"Where Mr. Weisenseel suggested we move the stop, it's across Mapp Road... it's unsafe," said Willie Sauls, district director of transportation. "We will leave the bus stop where it is, and they need to come to a resolution inside the community."