My own private parking lot?

January 30, 2009 5:28:49 PM PST
It is one of the most affluent neighborhoods in Houston where rambling mansions sit on acres of land, worth millions of dollars. So when one of the mansion owners built a parking lot for his own personal use on a city-owned esplanade, neighbors in this community near Memorial Park began asking questions.[SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

"All this is city right of way," said neighbor Dr. Stephen Kramer.

Dr. Kramer is showing a city parking inspector something he's never seen -- a private parking lot built on city property.

"The neighbor took it upon himself to put an illegal parking lot in the city right of way," said Dr. Kramer.

On a strip of land between multi-million dollar estates, the neighbor built the parking lot, a concrete drive way, and most recently added speed bumps to a public street all without pulling a permit.

"I don't know why anyone would do that. I have no idea why anyone would do that," said the parking inspector.

The man who built the parking lot is Stephen Way, the former CEO of insurance giant HCC Holdings. He lives next to the parking lot, behind giant gates.

We tried talking to Way and after calling us back, he then proceeded to hang up on us.

So we went to Houston City Council Member Pam Holm. She says she doesn't know why no one at the city has forced Way to remove the illegal parking lot and speed bumps. Holm admits the parking lot is a problem.

"I think Mr. Way, anytime you use city land without permission, you did something wrong. Should he just tear it down? That may be the outcome," said Holm.

Dr. Kramer remains puzzled. In a community where he and all of his neighbors have lots of money and plenty of land, he wonders why any multi-millionaire would find it necessary to take city property.

"I have plenty of space on my property for guests, and there is no house here that doesn't have enough space for guests to come over," said Dr. Kramer.

The neighborhood's homeowners association also submitted a letter to the city saying it is against the parking lot and other alterations made on city property. The city's public works department told us on Friday that it's hoping for a resolution in a week or so.

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