By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
Earlier this month, Tori Gerstenacker, 25, was tragically struck and killed while crossing Route 70 in Marlton, NJ. The vibrant young woman was returning home from a hard day at work as a field engineer for Henkels & McCoy.
Tori had just parked her Ford F-150 in the parking lot of a nearby shopping center, and was beginning the half-mile trek to her condominium townhome in Delancey Place. The accident occurred at a busy intersection across from the entrance to the community.
Tara Gerstenacker, Tori’s mother, and Jordan Ramaglia, her roommate, explain why Tori had parked so far away from home.
The HOA at Delancey Place does not allow residents to park commercial vehicles in the community. In fact, the HOA recently warned Tori it would tow her truck the next time she parked the vehicle on Delancey Place property.
Naturally, to avoid the hassle and expense of being towed — and possibly fined by her condo association — Tori had to find somewhere else to park her work truck.
Unintended consequences of parking restrictions
IAC has observed a national trend of HOAs strictly enforcing parking rules in the past few years. For instance, it has become more common for HOAs to disallow visible parking of commercial vehicles community.
Why do parking bans on commercial vehicles exist?
Originally, such restrictions were probably intended to prevent residents from parking large tractor trailers or box trucks in front of their homes. And that’s understandable. Very large vehicles can block visibility for drivers, and create serious safety hazards.
But not all commercial vehicles are alike.
Many people drive commercial vehicles that are nothing more than a standard-sized vehicle with a logo printed on the side doors. These cars, small vans, and pickup trucks often fit in a driveway or standard parking spot. In some communities, it’s also possible to parallel park at the curb.
So, in many cases, there’s no compelling reason to ban parking or work vehicles based upon health or safety concerns.
It’s true that, in some poorly-planned communities, parking space is severely limited. Smaller, more compact cars will fit in the driveway, but larger vehicles won’t. And private roads can be too narrow, or curb cuts for driveways too close together, to allow for parallel parking.
Parking at Delancey Place Condominiums
As you can see from Google Maps, Delancey Place has parking lots for resident vehicles — no garages or private driveways. A Ford F-150 is likely to fit in a standard parking space. Notice the number of empty parking spots in the image below.
In this view from Google Maps, you can see the Larchmont Commons Shopping Center, busy 6-lane Highway 70, and Delancey Place. Note that there’s no direct walking path to the community from the shopping center.
It’s obvious. Not only is it inconvenient to park at Larchmont Shopping Center and walk to Delancey Place — it’s also proven to be hazardous.
Why the change in rule enforcement?
Why did Delancey Place HOA suddenly decide to implement a towing policy for commercial vehicles, including a Ford F-150 with a small logo on the side doors?
We don’t really know what the condo board was thinking when they chose to allow management to crack down on the rules.
It’s quite possible that condo board members feel terrible about about the unintended consequences of enforcing parking restrictions on commercial vehicles. But Delancey Place Condominium Association doesn’t have a public website. And the HOA isn’t talking about the fatal accident that killed one of their residents.
Recent changes in management, parking enforcement
According to Jordan and another resident of Delancey Place, the condo association didn’t enforce its commercial vehicle parking rules until recently.
Since at least 2016, First Service Residential (FSR) has been promoting its services to help boards of HOA-governed communities enforce parking rules. (See Five Tips for Managing a Parking Policy in Your HOA, posted Monday November 14, 2016).
So it’s not surprising that the parking and towing crack down began within six months of Delancey HOA’s new contract with FSR.
First Service Residential added Delancey Place to its management portfolio in February 2019. Parking enforcement and towing began in August.
Attorney George Greatrex, who represents the Delancey Place Condominium Association, offered condolences, but won’t comment on the incident, pending a full investigation. According to his web profile, Greatrex specializes in HOA law, and is a frequent speaker for Community Associations Institute (CAI).
Rethinking HOA parking restrictions
IAC has observed that, in general, a shift in rule enforcement almost always follows the election of a new HOA board or a change in management.
Perhaps onerous restrictions on commercial vehicles exist to appease a few homeowners who simply don’t like the way they look. (Too “blue collar” or low class for a few uppity neighbors?)
But why should an HOA-governed community choose to put the aesthetic preferences of a few residents over the quality-of-life concerns of the many residents who must drive commercial vehicles to work on a daily basis?
That doesn’t seem very democratic or neighborly.
Adding aggressive or predatory towing to the mix certainly doesn’t help create a true sense of community either.
What role did HOA rules play in the fatal accident?
To be fair, we don’t have details available from the traffic report on the night of Gerstenacker’s death. A few local reporters have noted that the intersection Tori was crossing is “dimly lit.” And the accident occurred at dusk, when driver visibility is limited.
At this time, police have not files charges against the driver involved in the incident.
Regardless of the numerous factors that led to a pedestrian fatality, one thing is clear. If it hadn’t been for Delancey Place parking restrictions, Tori Gerstenacker would not have been crossing Route 70 at 7:30 PM on September 28.
That’s why Tori’s mother and roommate have started a change.org petition to convince Delancey Place to change its parking rules — to prevent a similar tragedy in the future. ♦
South Jersey woman struck, killed crossing busy highway
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Published October 8, 2019
Friend of New Jersey fatal crash victim fighting to change parking rules
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Tuesday, October 8, 2019 6:23PM
‘It All Could Have Been Avoided’: Loved Ones Taking Action To Change HOA Rules In Marlton In Memory Of Crash Victim
By Greg Argos | CBS3 | October 8, 2019 at 11:33 pm