Friday, July 13, 2012
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Committee hashes out street-side parking issues and develops 2 recommendations

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[July 13, 2012]  Tuesday evening eight members of the Lincoln City Council gathered in chambers for a special ordinance committee meeting. The committee of aldermen is chaired by Tom O'Donohue, with Melody Anderson, Jeff Hoinacki, Marty Neitzel and Jonie Tibbs serving on the committee. As is normally the case though, the majority of all the aldermen were there to participate in discussions. Only Anderson and Buzz Busby were absent.

For the past several weeks, the committee has been discussing how to address parking issues in residential areas of the city.

This came to light when Darrin Coffey approached the city about parking the trailers for his small business on the street in front of his home. He asked that the city ease up on the ordinances that prohibit such parking, or at least consider each situation on a case-by-case basis.

However, what actually happened was that it was discovered that the majority of the committee was more in favor of tightening the reins on this situation. In the first step of their decision-making process, they concluded that they would recommend to the full council banning all parking of trailers, boats, campers and RVs on city streets.

This week, the committee and others discussed another problem in the city: parking of these same types of vehicles on private property. There is a separate ordinance on the city books that prohibits parking of these types of vehicles on private property, even in driveways.

At a previous meeting, John Lebegue, building and safety officer, presented a slideshow of instances where trailers, boats and RVs are being parked in green spaces such as front yards. He also showed where some vehicles are being parked on what is technically city right of way and where vehicles are being parked in driveways that are too short for the length of the vehicle.

The current ordinance prohibits parking of such vehicles in front yards. Early in the discussion the subject of what a front yard is came into question. The current ordinance addresses "set-backs," which is the space from the front of the house to the front of the property line, excluding the city right of way.

The ordinance also states that all vehicles must be parked on all-weather surfaces.

O'Donohue said he felt that at the last committee meeting there seemed to be a desire for a new ordinance that would be more lenient on these rules.

At discussion time, David Wilmert said he was first of all confused about the setback and how it played into the parking issue. Lebegue offered the definition of the setback and explained that currently parking of any vehicle in the setback area is prohibited.

Wilmert said he thought what was previously discussed was to allow the parking in the front yard as long as it was a designated place there and not just in the grass.

Tibbs commented that generally the front yard of a home is not paved, so that could not be allowed. O'Donohue said he believed what was being considered was allowing paved or all-weather surfaces in the front yard.

Stacy Bacon said she felt the changes that needed to be made included use of the driveway. She said right now the ordinance prohibits parking of trailers in the driveway. She noted not everyone has access to their backyard, so they need to use the driveway, but right now they can't.

Wilmert said he would take it a step further and say it would be all right for an additional pad to be poured beside the driveway for a boat or trailer.

Bacon said she thought that was acceptable. She said it would have to be done "within reason," and perhaps such pads should not be placed in the front yard, but adjacent to the driveway would be acceptable.

Lebegue said one problem to consider is corner lots. A corner lot technically has two front yards, so an additional pad adjacent to the driveway could still be considered as filling in the front yard space.

Kathy Horn said she liked the idea from Wilmert and Bacon, but she was concerned about footage away from the road. She said she didn't want to see these vehicles obstructing vision. The answer was that the trailer would not be allowed on the city right of way. The right of way also varies but generally would be at least 3 feet from the curb toward the home. It was also noted that in some areas the right of way is considered from the lawn-side edge of the sidewalk to the curb, though not all areas have sidewalks.

David Armbrust said that in regard to RVs especially, it can be dangerous to the public as far as obscuring vision is concerned, for those to be parked in a driveway. He said he felt those types of vehicles should be parked in line with the front of the house.

It was later noted and decided that the parking of RVs should be addressed separately and at a later date.

O'Donohue said what he was hearing from the committee and others is that there could be a recommendation allowing for a space adjacent to the driveway designated for trailer or boat parking.

Neitzel, however, wondered if there should be a restriction on how wide the adjacent pad could be. She noted that someone might have a wide lot and pour a pad 50 feet wide. She wondered if that should that be allowed.

Hoinacki said if they had a wide lot and wanted to go three-wide on their storage, what would be the harm? But Neitzel countered that at her house she could have 60 feet of concrete for parking trailers, and should that honestly be allowed?

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Police Chief Ken Greenslate was also in attendance at the meeting and said he felt everyone had the right to do certain things on their own property, but at the same time their happiness shouldn't take away from their neighbors' enjoyment and their property.

Armbrust said that indeed, when he purchased his fifth-wheel and then a motor home, he approached the neighbors about parking those in the adjacent lot and made sure the neighbors didn't object. He said he felt it was only fair that people do this before parking an RV in their yard.

O'Donohue then said he felt the committee was leaning toward limiting the width of the additional allowable space.

Wilmert spoke up, though, saying: "I would urge the committee to keep in mind that we don't have to have a law or an ordinance for every possible exception. I haven't seen many 50-foot motor homes blocking views; I've seen more fences blocking views."

It was then that Lebegue said RVs are not typically part of a parking ordinance involving trailers and boats. He said generally these are dealt with separately. The committee agreed that they wanted to address RVs separately.

Neitzel said the typical lot in Lincoln is about 40 feet wide. In the case of a two-car garage, the driveway could be 20 feet wide, leaving only 20 feet of grass. She said she still felt residents shouldn't be allowed to surface their entire lawn, so shouldn't there be a specific allowable width written into the ordinance?

It was agreed that the width should be 10 feet, or approximately the width of a normal-sized trailer.

O'Donohue again tried to clarify what the recommendation to the full council would be. He said he was hearing that the committee would approve recommending the allowance of an all-weather surface, placed adjacent to the existing driveway, not to exceed a width of 10 feet, but Hoinacki quickly added "per vehicle."

When questioned on the comment, he responded that if he has two vehicles, he wants two widths so he can park them side by side.

Neitzel quickly disagreed, saying that should not be part of the ordinance.

O'Donohue said he thought if the pad were long enough, the vehicles could be parked end to end instead of side by side. He also noted that adding a second surface would not be in line with adding one adjacent to the driveway. "Adjacent to the adjacent is not adjacent to the driveway," he said.

Wilmert then quipped: "I want my pad 12 foot wide then so I can walk around the vehicle. Can't we get around having to dictate everything?"

In the end, a compromise was reached in that the city might allow the building and safety officer to make an exception on the 10-foot width on a case-by-case basis. Neitzel suggested this, and O'Donohue backed it up, saying that Lebegue could make the decision based on what he thought the size of the property could handle.

The committee's recommendations are to write ordinances only. Once written by city attorney Blinn Bates, the ordinances would then be voted on again before passing into city law.

O'Donohue reviewed the two recommendations to be made to the council:

The first would be to prohibit all street-side parking of trailers, boats or campers, except for the immediate purpose of loading or unloading.

The second would be to allow parking of trailers and boats on personal property with an all-weather surface not to exceed 10 feet wide and adjacent to the existing driveway.

The committee agreed those would be the recommendations.

When the issue came up later in the evening, a new twist was added. The question was asked how soon this would go into effect after the ordinances were actually passed.

The problem was presented that if the law went into effect immediately, owners of trailers and boats currently parking them on the streets or in the grass of their lawns would need time to establish the newly required "all-weather" surface. It was agreed that the recommendation could be amended to allow some time for the new law to take effect.


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