COLONIAL HEIGHTS, Va. (WRIC) — A Colonial Heights ordinance is increasing fines for parking in fire lanes — and allowing another agency to step in and hand out tickets for infractions.

City Council members adopted an ordinance in September which allows the city’s fire department to issue citations in addition to law enforcement, and raises the penalty for parking in front of a fire hydrant or in a fire lane from $20 to $50.

The Colonial Heights Police Department says around 180 parking citations have been issued across the city since Oct. 1. In 2022, the department said the city handed out between 48 and 50 tickets over the course of the entire year.

According to the city’s code, parking within 15 feet of a fire lane or fire hydrant could result in a higher fine and a hefty towing bill. Offenders could also face a class 1 misdemeanor for the parking violation.

“The issue is that it hasn’t been enforced,” said Paul Fornia, who’s lived in Colonial Heights for 45 years.

With more cars in places where they shouldn’t be, Fornia said it’s becoming a safety issue for emergency vehicles and other drivers trying to get around parked cars.

“The ordinance… it’s a safety aspect behind it. It’s not a money-making thing. Many of the summonses have been issued because people become lax over time,” he said. “There’s a safety issue for the residents, for the kids, and for the fire department. It’s for their benefit for access.”