Friday, October 12, 2012
 
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City may pass a parking ordinance at next week's voting session

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[October 12, 2012]  The Lincoln City Council spent several hours over the summer months hashing out what to do about city ordinances on parking of boats and trailers on streets and private property in residential areas.

The problem came to light in May when Darrin Coffey was told he could not park the trailers he uses for his business on the street in front of his home. He came to the council and asked them to reconsider the rule that prohibits this.

However, what has ensued has been a series of discussions on possibilities from completely prohibiting street-side parking to allowing parking for specific purposes only, such as loading and unloading, to prohibiting parking during certain hours of the day. None of these suggestions has met the approval of the full council, as aldermen have been much divided on the issue.

The discussions also migrated to allowing parking of boats and trailers on private property. This is the portion of the city ordinance that Aldermen Stacy Bacon and David Wilmert have taken to task and have continued to work to change.

They believe that if the city loosens the restrictions on parking such vehicles on private property such as driveways and yards, then the problem with parking on the street will resolve itself.

The ordinances as they stand now prohibit parking of boats, trailers, RVs and campers in driveways or yards, with the exception of the backyard of a property. Even then, the vehicle must be parked behind the residence so it is not dominantly visible.

For many Lincoln residents, this poses a problem, in that they either don't have sufficient room in their backyard, or they don't have alley access that allows them to get a vehicle into their backyard area. For others, there is the issue of living on a corner lot, which technically has two front yards and very little backyard that could be used.

Bacon and Wilmert started by pushing for the ordinances to be changed to allow parking in driveways or areas adjacent to the driveway. This led to discussions about the surface where the vehicle would be parked. Many aldermen wanted the rules to include a requirement for an all-weather surface if the vehicle is to be parked adjacent to the driveway.

From there the issue became whether there should be a limit on the size, if there was an all-weather surface. The concern was whether it still would look unsightly if a surface adjacent to a driveway in front of a home took up the majority of the front lawn.

Aldermen discussed limiting the size of the adjacent surface, but that, too, came up against opposition, as talk turned to how many vehicles need to be parked and how many times someone could establish an area "adjacent" to their driveway.

Also discussed was whether or not the spaces used in backyards should be all-weather surfaces as well.

At the Sept. 25 committee of the whole workshop meeting, Wilmert offered one last proposal for a new ordinance.

He told the council he had taken a drive around town and looked at some homes where trailers are parked in backyards. He said none of them really bothered him. He didn't care whether or not they were on the grass or a solid surface, and he didn't feel the council should be concerned with that.

He said his final proposal would do away with regulating use of the backyard.

Melody Anderson said she wanted to clarify that there would still be a requirement for the all-weather surface at the front or side of the house. Wilmert said that was the consensus of the council and he would go along with it.

Mayor Keith Snyder asked if he was proposing doing away with all regulations for backyards. Wilmert said yes, with the exception of adhering to right of way rules where there are alleys. Marty Neitzel said that would then be a 5-foot setback.

Wilmert said he was trying to cover all the bases without getting bogged down in rules, so his theory was that as far as the backyard is concerned, just leave that part alone.

Neitzel clarified, "Then you're leaving the backyard out," and Wilmert responded, "Yes."

Wilmert then asked, "So if I were to redraft this, would anyone have an objection to eliminating the backyard stuff?" Several aldermen said they would not.

Next he approached the question of the size of the all-weather surface.

He asked: "What about this business of 225 square feet? If someone comes up and says, I need 226 feet,' do we really care?"

With few commenting on his question, it appeared that this was also an area where the council would be willing to be flexible.

Wilmert asked anyone to speak up who had comments about the proposal.

Stacy Bacon said the whole idea behind this ordinance was to allow residents the opportunity to park trailers in their driveways or adjacent areas, and get them off the streets.

Marty Neitzel then wondered what residents were going to do if they had two trailers. Jeff Hoinacki said they would have the option to park their trailers in the driveways and their cars on the street.

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Wilmert went back to the question of 225 square feet and asked if anyone wanted to comment, and whether the city really wants or needs to specify that. He reminded the council that this ordinance does not address RVs.

Neitzel said she would not want the length of the adjacent area to extend past a city sidewalk or city right of way where there is no sidewalk. She said, for example, if they had 24 feet of length without going into city right of way, they should be able to use all of that. She said with a pad 10 feet wide and 24 feet long, that would give them 240 square feet.

Wilmert said the ordinance could be changed by scratching the 225 feet and changing it to say: "Parking permitted on a driveway or all-weather surface attached thereto. The surface must be contiguous. Parking must not extend into a city street right of way or block any sidewalk if one exists."

Buzz Busby also questioned whether or not there should be a limit on how wide the surface can be. The concern of several of the aldermen is that people will end up concreting their entire front yard to park vehicles there.

Snyder said there is currently a limit of 24 feet on the width of a driveway, but Tracy Jackson, street and alley superintendent, said that only applied to the approach from the street. There are no actual limits to the width of a driveway once it passes the right of way or sidewalk area. Wilmert concluded that if there are no limits there, then there would be no need to include limits in this ordinance.

Snyder asked Jackson if there were any rules that prohibited concreting an entire front yard. Jackson said he and zoning officer John Lebegue had found none.

With no one voicing any objections to Wilmert's suggestions, he asked if he could put this all in writing and present it at the next workshop meeting. The general consensus of the aldermen was that he could.

Before ending the discussion, Wilmert was asked to read aloud to the council what he was going to propose.

Wilmert read the following:

"Parking of up to two trailers allowed using any configuration below. Any open trailer containing yard waste, appliances, waste, refuge, recyclables, scraps, or junk must be covered and stored in the back yard if one exists. No such open container trailer to appear in front yard or side yard covered or otherwise.

"Front yard. Parking is permitted on the driveway or an all weather surface attached thereto. All weather surfaces must be contiguous. Parking must not extend into the city street right-of-way or block any sidewalk if one exists.

"Example: the owner of a home with a standard two wide driveway parks cars on the drive builds gravel pad next to driveway up by the garage to store camper.

"For side yards; for corner houses, same as above."

At the end, Wilmert and Bacon were thanked by Neitzel for the time they had spent on this issue.

Wilmert was asked when this would go on an agenda, and he said he'd rewrite his notes and have it ready for the council to review again at the Oct. 9 meeting and vote on it Oct. 15.

Snyder also commented, saying: "I would suggest that when we deal with it then, up or down, then we're done with it; we're done with the trailer parking discussion."

This week Wilmert presented his written proposal and asked that it be put on the next voting agenda.

The only questions that came were from Snyder, who asked if there was an ordinance on street-side parking that would be submitted as well. Wilmert said there was not.

Snyder also wanted to know when the new ordinance would take effect, if passed. Wilmert said it would take effect immediately.

[By NILA SMITH]

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