By Kevin Boneske
HOWARD – After discussing the possibility of making changes to the village code as it relates to off-street private parking in residential areas, the village board voted 8-1 Aug. 24 in favor of removing crushed stone or gravel as an equivalent hard surface.
Trustee Craig McAllister cast the lone dissenting vote on the proposed code change being referred to the Plan Commission for a public hearing Sept. 21.
The board in recent months discussed possible revisions to the village code because of issues related to parking in yards.
“To be honest, I’ve seen 30-foot enclosed trailers with a snowmobile trailer and another trailer parked in somebody’s backyard,” said Trustee Adam Lemorande. “As of right now, they put concrete blocks (underneath the wheels). It is my understanding that is legal, and we can’t do anything with them. There’s neighbors arguing with neighbors over this.”
Lemorande asked other board members whether to continue to allow people to park campers, etc., in their yards instead of storing them during winter.
“I also, I guess, would like for the board to consider what kind of policing method we have for this,” he said. “I don’t want to make it where somebody has a trailer parked in their front yard for a day and there’s a summons or something to that effect. But at the same time, I think when you’re using your backyard as a storage facility, which I think (Trustee Scott) Beyer and I can both allude we’ve seen a lot of this, I think we are kind of opening up Pandora’s Box.”
Lemorande said he doesn’t know what the village will look like in five years if it doesn’t come up with “something a little cleaner.”
Beyer said he is concerned parking in yards could get out of hand if the village doesn’t do something about it.
“We’re going to continue to see things deteriorate in the wrong direction,” he said.
Director of Community Development Dave Wiese said the village created a hard surface requirement for parking in 2013, then the board received a report on the issue in April and referred it for review to the Plan Commission, which elected in June not to make any changes to the current regulations.
“Our definition of a hard surface, for off-street residential parking, does include compacted gravel,” he said. “Most other communities you’ll find, with the research that I had done, (there is a requirement for a) hard surface to be brick, concrete block, or concrete or asphalt. So that’s one thing that you may want to look at as far as a potential change.”
In a typical residential neighborhood, other than large trucks, Wiese said storage of any wheeled vehicle, including recreational trailers and boats, is only allowed on the owner’s property if it is parked entirely on a hard-surface material and is operable and licensed, if applicable.
However, in rural residential areas, he said there isn’t a hard-surface material requirement.
Village President Burt McIntyre, who also chairs the Plan Commission, said the board needs to determine what type of equipment it wants to allow stored in yards, what constitutes an appropriate surface and where in a yard it wants to allow storage.
“We’ve got three modules to this thing that we’ve got to wrestle with, and I don’t think we have any of that information right now,” he said.
McIntyre said he would like to see staff put together something to answer those three matters.
“We’ve got an issue of grandfathering as well,” he said. “Are we going to backtrack and then all those issues that do nothing more than irritate a lot of people? I think we have to put this thing together a lot more solid.”
McIntyre suggested forming a subcommittee to look into possible revisions to the village code on off-street residential parking.
“Once we do it, it will either turn out really good or really bad,” he said.
McIntyre said there are things people have in their backyards worse than a parked camper.
“If we’re looking for aesthetically pleasing, putting a slab in somebody’s backyard, when they’ve got a bunch a junk, doesn’t accomplish much,” he said.
Wiese said he provided the board enough information for it to give staff direction as to where to revise the code regarding off-street residential parking.
“If you want to see changes to the definition of hard surface, that’s easily done,” he said. “If you’d like to see code enforcement go neighborhood by neighborhood, looking for violations, we can certainly do that.”
With crushed stone or gravel removed as an equivalent hard surface, Wiese said existing uses would be grandfathered with photos used to see if anyone is cheating the system upon a code change being made.
Board members didn’t take action on a possible code amendment Wiese presented related to removing off-street parking in all yards and limiting it to certain yards, such as only front and side yards or side and rear yards.
Wiese said the proposed code change related to hard surfaces would apply to areas with utilities and will be subject to a public hearing by the Plan Commission a week before the board’s Sept. 28 meeting, when the revision could receive final approval.
“I will make sure the definition does include the entire vehicle, because before we had issues where people were just putting hard surface underneath the trailer tongue and tires and stuff,” he said. “We’re going to clean that up a little bit, too, to make sure that it’s the width and length of the vehicle, or item parked.”