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Oakmont residents see parking dollar signs now, could be cited later

Brian C. Rittmeyer
| Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sarah Houston said Saturday she hadn't seen so many of her neighbors out and about their Oakmont neighborhood since February's massive snowstorm.

Mixed in with her 13th Street neighbors were strangers and people from all across the country, heading to see the 2010 U.S. Women's Open at the nearby Oakmont Country Club.

Houston and a good number of the country club's neighbors in Oakmont and Plum were among those helping out the spectators and looking to make a few bucks by selling parking spaces in their driveways and yards. But in Oakmont, their generosity and entrepreneurship could bring a fine later.

Although the events offers spectators free parking and shuttle service from Pittsburgh Mills mall in Frazer, there was no shortage of golf fans who wanted to have their vehicles closer and eschew the ride on yellow school buses. Prices seen in the area ranged from $10 to $30.

Manning the lawn at his stepdaughter's property at 15th and Hulton, Bob Benson of Brockway was charging $15 for spots, same as Justin Rushin III was doing at an undeveloped lot his family owns across the street.

"We're not in competition with anybody. We charge the same. When he fills up, he sends them to me. When I fill up, I send them over to him," Benson said. "There's plenty to go around."

In 2007, during the men's open championship, both Oakmont and Plum prohibited residents from selling parking at their homes. Oakmont's zoning disallows it, but Plum enacted a temporary ordinance so there's no restriction this year, said Plum police Chief Frank Monaco.

Oakmont residents selling parking on their lawns or driveways will be cited for running a business from their homes without a borough permit, Mayor Robert Fescemyer said. Police have been keeping track of those who have been doing it and those residents could be cited for each day they were in violation.

Fescemyer could not say how many residents have violated the ordinance, or the amount of the fines they could face.

"There should be citations issued to everyone that was parking cars in their yard against the ordinance. It will be up to the magistrate to make a ruling on that," he said.

Houston said she hadn't heard anything about facing a fine for selling parking on her lawn, adding she wasn't fined for doing it in 2007. Charging $20 per space, she planned to use the money to pay for veterinarian bills for her sick dog and cat.

"It would be nice if they wouldn't do it. It's a shame if it happens," she said, adding that if she had known about it sooner, "It definitely would've made us think twice for sure."

Besides $20 parking spaces, Houston was selling water for $1 a bottle - a bargain, she said, compared to the going rate of $4 inside the country club. With 10 cars, her lawn was full before noon Saturday.

"It's fun to park cars and make a little money," she said before hearing about the possibility of a fine. "For us being here, it's about us seeing our neighbors and seeing all these people. You get to talk with your neighbors and meet new people. It's more of a fun event for us."

Across the street, Sophia Facaros -- also charging $20 for spots in her looping driveway and $1 for water -- compared it to a big block party.

"These days everyone sits inside with the air conditioning. No one sits on the front porch," she said. "This brings everybody out."

Spectators were prohibited from parking on Oakmont streets near the course. Residents were given permits to display.

But some residents were selling the permits, too, according to Facaros, pointing to cars parked on the street displaying tags she knew belonged to people who didn't live there.

Storms and heavy rain did more than cut the golf action short on Friday. It also made a mess of some parking lots, including those for volunteers and media, who were directed to Pittsburgh Mills, Edgewater Steel in Oakmont and the Syria Mosque in Harmar.

The rain caused Nettie Schropp to close off part of her yard in Plum for parking, although she decided to help displaced volunteers by offering them parking for a reduced $10 rate. By mid-day Saturday, her lawn off of Coxcomb Hill Road appeared pretty well packed with vehicles.

Schropp said business picked up over the course of the week as spectators riding on the school buses in the hot and muggy weather saw opportunities to park closer.

"It's a beautiful day today," she said. "You can't complain about today."

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