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When snow makes parking tight, make room for debate

In Baltimore, it's the most predictable part of any big snow forecast: Once the storm stops, and cars begin to reclaim the roads, out come the chairs and cones — or, if none is handy, perhaps an ironing board, or the occasional lawnmower. And, in their wake, the perennial debate: Whether or not it's legal (it's not), is it right to reserve a public parking space, a space that technically is everyone's, but physically would still be a pile of snow if not for the saver's hours shoveling out?

A recent op-ed on our website, "Note to Baltimoreans: That parking spot you shoveled out isn't yours," set off the arguing anew. You may have shoveled the spot, but you didn't pave it, the author writes. Clearing it, he goes on, doesn't convey any privilege — it's what you're supposed to do, like clearing your walk (in the city, sidewalks, in fact, must be cleared by law).

Readers responding counter that respecting the unwritten rule of the chair (or cooler, or wooden plank) is what you're supposed to do. It's a "custom" and "common courtesy," they say, something everyone knows. Outrage, they say, should be reserved for those who take spots without shoveling, not for those trying to protect their labor from such freeloaders.

Perhaps it's encouraging that both sides appeal to "what's right," even if they disagree on what right is.

Not that everyone sees the issue in black and white. A self-identified first-time chairer says after this month's historic storm he saw no other choice, and pledged to open the space as soon as more are cleared. Another commenter says he doesn't spot save but isn't bothered by those who do — as long as they don't try to reserve the space he cleared.

With even police seeming to leave the question open, where do you come down in the great chairing debate? Answer the poll above and share what the parking situation looks like in your neighborhood by contributing to our reader photo gallery.Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun