Cars towed last week in Clowes Hall lot

Members of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity expect to soon be better able to park their cars along the street in front of their house.

A city resolution, backed by the fraternity’s house corps, the Butler University Police Department, the university parking committee and the Butler-Tarkington Neighborhood Association, allows for a stretch on the east side of Sunset Avenue to be designated as Greek parking.

Signs are expected to be placed within the next week.  The area running from Lambda Chi’s property line north to the corner of 49th Street is currently open to anyone with a university permit and is frequently used by commuters.

Parties involved felt the change was necessary as the fraternity dealt with a shortage of reliable parking spaces and ran into conflicts with usage of the lot near Clowes Memorial Hall.

Chapter president Matt  Presley said residents of Lambda Chi’s house require 40-45 parking spots.  However, the fraternity only has 24 spots available in the lot on its property.

For years, some members have used a row of 15 spaces across the street in the Clowes lot to help make up the difference.

A “gentleman’s handshake” between Clowes, BUPD and the fraternity allowed members to park there, Executive Director of Public Safety Ben Hunter said.
Difficulties arose, though, when Clowes hosted certain events and Lambda Chi members were asked to move their vehicles.  Those students had to resort to parking in the lot at Hinkle Fieldhouse or attempting to find a Greek parking spot on the south side of campus.
The informal arrangement between Lambda Chi Alpha and Clowes will end once the new zoning on Sunset is official, Hunter said.

Hunter said the new Greek parking in front of the Lambda Chi Alpha house should amount to about 20 to 22 spots.

“As far as solving their problem, I’m confident it will go a long way,” Hunter said.

Presley said the resolution, approved by the Indianapolis Board of Public Works Jan. 11, will assure there is sufficient parking for Lambda Chi Alpha vehicles.

“It’ll be exactly what we need alongside the street,” he said.

Parking has been an issue for the fraternity recently.

Between eight to 10 members of the fraternity saw their vehicles towed last Wednesday morning when Clowes hosted hundreds of local schoolchildren for a presentation of “The Magic School Bus Live!”

All of the space in the lot was needed to park school buses.

Presley said he was notified in early January of the dates this semester when Lambda Chi Alpha vehicles would need to be removed.

He forwarded the email to his members.  On Feb. 20, Presley provided the men two days’ notice and asked them to drive their cars and trucks out before the Feb. 22 event.

“I gave fair warning,” Presley said. “They didn’t listen to what I said.”

Noticing Greek decals in the lot, BUPD called Presley at 7:40 a.m.

Since he was asleep and had his phone on vibrate, Presley missed the call.  Police three minutes later phoned house mother Sheila Patsiner, who woke up as many students as she could.

Presley said five or six men ran outside and moved their vehicles before they were towed.

A few others paid $40 to recover cars already lifted onto tow trucks.  Less fortunate members faced charges of $150 to retrieve their rides.

“Quite expensive,” Presley said.

The maximum allowable towing fee is $150, according to Sec. 995-305a of the city code.

Per Sec. 995-305i, when an owner arrives to find a vehicle already on the tow truck, the towing company must return the vehicle “upon cash payment of a reasonable fee, not to exceed one half of the regular towing fee.”

The first vehicles were towed at roughly 7:50 a.m., about 10 minutes after BUPD contacted Lambda Chi Alpha.  The show was scheduled for 10 a.m., with school buses arriving sooner.

Hunter said it wasn’t the first time BUPD has ordered cars to be towed.

“We had to get the lot cleared,” he said.  “Not only did the organization get warnings not to park there, but staff were proactive in getting ahold of people that morning. At some point, we can’t continue to wait, and I’m adamant we’re not going to mix vehicular traffic with school-aged children.”

Presley said he thought BUPD could have waited another 10 to 15 minutes to tow but said he wasn’t upset by the decision.

“They had the right to do it,” he said. “They needed that lot.  I told our members, ‘You guys have to take responsibility.’ It’s more on our members.”

Steve Pavlick, a freshman finance and accounting major, agreed with his president.

“You’ve got to be accountable for your own car,” he said.

Kyle Graden, a sophomore international business and Spanish major, said he was among the students able to move his car before it got towed.

“It’s kind of our fault,” he said.  “They did give us a warning.”

Graden said he left his car in the lot despite the email because he didn’t expect it to actually get towed.

Days from now, Lambda Chi Alpha students no longer will be allowed to park in Clowes and are set instead to take advantage of the 20 to 22 Greek parking spots in front of their house.

“Problem solved,” Graden said.

Some members said they are happy that commuters won’t be able to park there.

“Once we get them out of the way, it should get rid of the problem,” said Tyler Berggren, a sophomore recording industry studies major.  “Parking on the street would be a lot better [for us].”

At the specific request of the BTNA, the Greek zoning on Sunset is not applicable during the summer months.

The home on the corner of Sunset and 49th is abandoned.  Butler owns the property, allowing cars to park on the street next
to it.
Jeremy Stewart, president of the BTNA, and Christopher Cleveland, a sophomore College of Liberal Arts and Sciences student whose vehicle was towed last week, declined to comment.
David Sherman, chairman of the Board of Public Works, could not be reached for comment.