Saturday, October 9, 2004

Family battles Bellevue for a handicapped spot



By Mike Rutledge
Enquirer staff writer

[photo]
Martha Werbrich, 66, makes her way across a concrete pad to the sidewalk in front of her home in Bellevue after being dropped off by Greg Feldman, a client supervisor at Redwood Rehabilitation Center.
The Enquirer/PATRICK REDDY
Helen Werbrich spends four days a week assisting the disabled at the Redwood School and Rehabilitation Center, which she helped found. Now, she'd like help from Bellevue for a handicapped parking space at her house.

Werbrich has lived at the same home in the 1000 block of Taylor Avenue for 62 years. She has had a handicapped space out front for about a decade because her 66-year-old daughter, Martha Werbrich, has had cerebral palsy since birth, and her limbs get stiffer each year.

The city, which recently toughened its parking standards, denied her application in June.

Properties with off-street parking cannot also have handicapped spaces.

But Helen Werbrich's son, Tom, says his mother has no off-street parking: She only has an old-fashioned driveway that is too narrow for today's cars. It swoops steeply to the basement garage and hasn't been used in 30 years, he said.

Tom Werbich, of Monfort Heights, helped his mother appeal in July to the city's Disabled Parking Appeals Board.

The city last month painted a handicap parking in a new spot - directly in front of the driveway - but that doesn't help, the son said: The driveway's slight slope between the sidewalk and street is too steep for his mother, whose stiff legs force her to drag the balls of her feet when she uses a walker.

Five days a week, a special bus picks up Martha Werbich in the morning, bound for a handicapped workshop at Redwood School in Fort Mitchell. Each afternoon she is dropped off by a car, which lets her off at the 3-inch-high curb near a concrete parking pad the family constructed.

The family poured the pad with city permission between the curb and sidewalk a decade ago to help Martha Werbich reach the old parking space.

"I think it's rotten," said Helen Werbrich, who wants the space returned to its original spot. "I don't think they understand why we're concerned."

It used to be relatively easy to get parking permits, said Mayor Jack Meyer: "Basically all you had to do was have a handicap placard, and you had a spot. So, there was no regulation on anything."

That changed when people complained at a council meeting about the parking situation in one neighborhood. The city has eliminated many of the nearly 150 handicapped spots it had.

Meyer said the city is being consistent.

Meyer agrees parking is not tight in the 1000 block of Taylor. Werbrich plans to take signatures of support from the five neighbors on the street who surround his mother's house to Wednesday's 7 p.m. council meeting.

"I don't know that anything will change," Meyer said about the family's plea. "Because the whole point of a handicap parking spot is just to give you a spot to park, and they have that. It just doesn't work out the way they want it to because of getting picked up with a handicap bus every day."

E-mail mrutledge@enquirer.com




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