At Cassano’s Italian grocery store in northeast Spokane, there’s a chance you can get homemade cannoli, imported soppressata or maybe some fresh ravioli. You might also get a $450 parking ticket.
Since Christmas, the parking lot of Cassano’s at Mission and Napa has received some unwanted attention from parking enforcement officials, leading the store’s owner to say the city has unfairly focused on his business.
The fines were issued after vehicles blocked access to the lot’s sole disabled parking spot. The first fine was issued on Dec. 26, when a woman with no legs was fined $450 for parking in a spot reserved for disabled people without a permit. She was sitting in the car waiting to be helped inside as the official wrote the ticket.
“I’ve never had problems with this before. Now all of a sudden I daily have a problem,” said Carl Naccarato, who owns the store and received the second $450 ticket on New Year’s Eve for blocking access to the disabled spot, even though he said the store had been closed for three hours and there were no other cars in his spacious lot. “Why is my store being targeted?”
On Thursday, the store’s bread deliveryman parked near the store’s back entrance and received the third $450 ticket.
Dave Steele, the city’s parking manager, said the three tickets are not a matter of being targeted, but simple follow-up by officials.
“If they see something like that, they will come back around five or six days later to see if it’s a chronic problem,” Steele said. “This is a federal and state law. It’s one of the biggest calls we get – hey, there’s somebody parked in the disabled spot and they’re not allowed to.”
Steele said he had the first two tickets dismissed, but the third one, for the bread deliverer, will stand. Naccarato now had to inform his patrons and delivery people not to block the spot, Steele said, noting that the city “writes thousands of these (tickets) all across the city.”
Steele did fault the parking official for the first ticket, saying she should have issued a warning.
“The law is black and white, but in my brain, I can’t imagine handing a ticket to someone who is visibly disabled,” he said.
Councilman Mike Fagan, who worked with Naccarato and Steele to resolve the issue, said he didn’t blame “a city employee for doing their job.”
Still, he said, the city’s parking laws need to be examined and changed “so some common sense can be employed and there’s some officer discretion,” he said.
Steele and Fagan said they were investigating the possibility of allowing Naccarato to move the disabled spot so it is harder to block.
Naccarato said he was considering getting rid of the disabled spot altogether because “it’s doing more harm than good,” but Steele said the spot is required by law.
Naccarato, who was the general manager at the Ridpath Hotel in the 1970s, said he had trouble understanding why he, his customer and his deliveryman faced a spate of fines equaling $1,350 in just two weeks.
“They’re public servants. They’re not here to harass us. Use your head. God gave you a brain,” he said. “When something like this happens, you just can’t sit back and take it. You have to fight it.”
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