Parking mistake in Arlington could cost driver big

ARLINGTON -- Tweed Clark stopped briefly at the Arlington Municipal Court to pay her daughter's $250 speeding ticket.

So, how did Clark end up with a $640 parking violation of her own?

Clark admits that she parked in a yellow-striped space next to a handicap space for a few minutes March 8 but said she never saw a "no parking" sign until after an officer pointed it out to her while writing the ticket.

In Arlington, the fine for blocking access to a handicap parking space -- the violation for which Clark was cited -- is the same as for illegally parking in a handicap space.

Clark, who is fighting the citation, said she has written and called Mayor Robert Cluck and other city leaders asking them to consider reducing the fine. She also wrote a jeer in the Star-Telegram calling the city "crazy" for how much it charges.

"It's outrageous," Clark said. "I wasn't driving drunk. I wasn't speeding in a school zone."

If Clark had been speeding 35 mph over the limit in a school zone, her fine would have been $324, about half of the parking ticket cost, according to the court's website.

Deputy City Manager Bob Byrd said the city doesn't typically have visitors illegally parking in or blocking the handicap spaces in front of City Tower, which houses the court.

Visitors who want to avoid paying the parking meters in front of the building compete for the limited spaces on the first floor of the garage. Byrd said many people don't realize that there are also free spaces on the top level of the garage.

Clark, who has hired an attorney, said she wants to raise awareness about her costly mistake.

"I felt like the whole city of Arlington, Dallas and Fort Worth should hear about it," Clark said of writing to the Star-Telegram. "I have told everybody in the city. I've got such a big mouth."

Clark said it was dark inside the parking garage on the rainy afternoon she visited the court. She said she was inside for only a few minutes and left once she was told that she would be waiting in line for several hours to pay her daughter's fine.

As she was driving out of the garage, Clark said, she was stopped by an officer who chased her on foot and wrote her the parking ticket.

The same parking violation costs $309 in Dallas, $545 in Hurst, $517 in Plano and $305 plus court costs in Mansfield, according to those cities' courts.

Olivia Acosta of Arlington, who uses a wheelchair, said she feels that the city's fine is fair. She said motorists with disabilities are frequently trapped by other drivers who block them from getting their wheelchairs in or out of their vehicles.

"It happens every day," said Acosta, an administrative assistant for the nonprofit agency Helping Restore Ability, which promotes independence for people with disabilities. "They are stuck until that car is moved."

Susan Schrock, 817-390-7639