The Rhode Island American Civil Liberties Union is suing the town of Narragansett over the interpretation of a parking ordinance for Narragansett Avenue passed in August 2011, according to a press release from the organization.
The three student plantiffs are listed as Caitlin Dowd, Grace Rignanese and Jenessa Redfern, who the ACLU said have a nine-month lease for a house on Narragansett Avenue.
According to the ACLU, the trio applied for and were issued parking permits in September. However, their cars were then ticketed in mid-October.
The ACLU says that at that point, the three were told that the parking was limited to “permanent residents,” meaning those with 12-month leases, or property owners. According to the ACLU, when the three complained to the police department, the tickets were withdrawn.
However, the three claim they were issued tickets again in January.
When they complained to the department at that time, they allege that Narragansett Police Chief Dean Hoxsie told them Town Solicitor Mark McSally had clarified that a “resident” was someone who held a 12-month lease or owned property.
In the release, Dowd is quoted as saying, “The new parking ordinance is upsetting to us because it is taking away a right, a right that everyone else on our street has. We are hurt because we have done nothing to warrant this discrimination against us. My roommates and I love this town, we love living in Narragansett and care about this community, but it is really frustrating that the town refuses to acknowledge our rights or even consider us members of the community.”
According to the press release, the ACLU takes issue with the permits being unavailable or useless to students and non-full year residents, as opposed to the legality of the limits of the parking on Narragansett Avenue.
According to the ordinance filed on ClerkBase, no distinction is made between the varying types of resident. The ordinance was approved in a special meeting on August 22, 2011, after a first reading on August 15. Minutes for both meeting have yet to be presented or approved as of April 17, 2012.
According to South Kingstown police reports, Redfern was arrested on Feb. 29 and charged with drunken driving after police alleged that she hit a tree on Kingstown Road.
However, there is no record of the arrest in the online judicial database. In the majority of cases, this means the charge was either dismissed and expunged, or that Redfern pleaded to refusing to submit to a chemical test at the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal, which leads to a dismissal of the criminal charge of driving while intoxicated.
The suit by the ACLU against the Town of Narragansett is the latest in a long line of back and forth over student rights. In January 2011, a federal appeals court upheld earlier decisions against the ACLU and for the town regarding the sticker policy, despite opposition from the URI Student Senate and the ACLU.
On March 5, the Narragansett Town Council approved a new ordinance to recoup emergency response costs. While no formal action has been taken yet, it is expected that the ACLU will also challenge this in court when an appropriate case occurs.
For copies of the ACLU’s press release and the ordinance approved at the August 22, 2011 meeting, see the attached PDFs.