- The Washington Times - Monday, April 7, 2008

A program intended to catch D.C. residents who have not registered their cars also is netting motorists coming to the city to see friends or patronize clubs or restaurants.

“I thought this was an April Fools’ joke,” said Thomas Kollins, a 64-year-old Springfield resident who left a lounge in the city last month to find a warning notice on the windshield of his 2003 Toyota Camry. “I really did — because it’s so absurd.”

The Registration of Out of State Automobiles (ROSA) program looks for those who have not registered their cars with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) within the required 30-day period after moving into the city.

Sixteen parking enforcement officers patrol neighborhoods at night to find vehicles with out-of-state tags. When one is spotted, the officer enters the plate number into a mobile computer and revisits the site within 30 days.

If the vehicle is spotted a second time, the officer can issue a warning that states the vehicle is eligible for a ticket or impoundment unless the owner registers the vehicle or applies for an exemption. A third offense in the same area within 30 days can result in a $100 ticket or the vehicle being towed.

“When you move in you are required to have your car registered,” said Linda Grant, spokeswoman for the Department of Public Works, which administers the program. “It’s nothing more than that.”

Miss Grant said the program focuses only on residential streets to find nonregistered vehicles.

In most D.C. neighborhoods, residential permits allow parking during daytime hours for an unlimited amount of time. Visitors without permits are prohibited from staying in the same spot more than two hours during the day.

Mr. Kollins — who comes into the city at night for tango sessions on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays — said he was ticketed in the 1200 block of 18th Street Northwest, a short distance from his destination, the 18th Street Lounge.

Mr. Kollins said he plans to apply for an exemption with the city, which is good for 180 days.

“I cannot take the chance of coming out of some dance at night and finding my car gone at 2 in the morning,” he said. “So I’ll do what I have to do. But for other people it’s absurd.”

Visiting motorists can obtain temporary exemptions, but the process requires a daytime trip into the District and a visit to a DMV location during service hours. The motorist then must present an attendant with documents such as an original lease, mortgage statement or current utility bill to prove they live elsewhere.

The process must be repeated after six months.

Jason Webb, a talk-radio manager from Silver Spring, works in the District and sometimes stays with a friend in Cleveland Park. He received a warning notice and ticket last year because his vehicle had Maryland plates and was parked overnight on Tilden Street Northwest.

City officials dismissed the ticket, but it was months later and only after Mr. Webb mailed the DMV copies of the deed trust to his condo and utility bills.

“It was kind of pointless and a lot of hassle for me at the end,” said Mr. Webb, 32.

Lucy Bowe, a health care worker who takes care of an elderly Northwest resident at night, said she encountered problems with DMV when trying to get permission to park where she works.

Still, she said, the ROSA program is good “if they explain to you how it works.”

The program began in the 1980s but was discontinued in the 1990s because of budget constraints. It was renewed in 2003 at the request of city residents and members of the D.C. Council.

Miss Grant said her agency in fiscal 2007 issued 7,683 warning notices and 8,083 tickets for ROSA infractions. Metropolitan Police Department officers also can issue the citations.

She said DPW fields roughly 3,000 requests from residents each month for increased parking enforcement.

Skip Coburn, executive director of the D.C. Nightlife Association — a nonprofit group of venues that advocates on behalf of the District’s nocturnal hospitality industry — said he has been reassured by the city that motorists who prove they are frequent visitors are safe from penalties.

Mr. Kollins said the hassle for visitors like him diminishes the benefits of the program.

“I’m going to try to reverse this thing and make life miserable for somebody in the District, because what they’re doing on several levels is wrong,” he said.

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