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RV/boat parking regs get final overhaul

Following another flood of public input, the Port Orchard City Council’s street committee has requested another series of changes be made to the proposed RV/boat parking ordinances.

The street committee held a second public hearing on the ordinances Oct. 9. The first hearing, held Aug. 20, was swamped with attendees, most of whom were very outspoken on the issue of residents’ rights. Committee member Rick Wyatt said this month’s hearing was a little calmer, although as many people showed up this time as came to the last hearing.

“We had a really nice turnout,” Wyatt said. “It was very educational for both sides.”

Following in the vein of comments offered at the last hearing, most residents spoke out against the notion of the city legislating their recreational freedoms.

Richard Ness, who also attended the August hearing, talked about the absurdity of kicking his RV of the street. His wife Sharon, who said she can’t attend the meetings because she has bad health and can’t afford to get upset, said it was ludicrous to say their RV was blocking traffic on their street.

“We have a 60-foot street,” she said. “We could have one RV parked on one side and one RV parked on the other side and two going right down the middle.”

Ness also expressed concern the four-hour parking limit would make it impossible to adequately prepare an RV for travel without risking a ticket. Other residents said they would have no place to park their vehicles if they had to move them off the street. Many houses in the area nearly fill their properties and offer little room on which to park a large camper or boat trailer.

To address the big issues presented by residents — freedom to park on weekends and consideration for those with small properties and/or driveways — the committee proposed extending the hours RVs and boats could legally be parked in public right-of-ways from four hours to 24 hours.

Weekends would also be an exempt period — residents were concerned tourists would avoid Port Orchard if they could be ticketed for parking their boat trailer on a city street while sailing around Sinclair Inlet.

A general exemption clause will also be written into the ordinances — anyone coming before the city council with evidence the parking restrictions will cause undue hardship will likely be granted an exemption. It is not yet clear whether that exemption would be permanent or, if not, how often it would have to be renewed.

“The only way I would say no is if there was a safety issue,” Wyatt said.

However, some residents felt the committee was ignoring the safety issues created by street parking. RV owner Melode Sapp said even with the ordinances, many streets remained hazardous. She said she thought the city was punishing residents for a problem the city had caused itself.

“Some of the streets barely accommodate three cars abreast,” Sapp said. “If the streets aren’t adequate, they have no one to blame but themselves — they approved those developments.”

The original set of four companion ordinances were presented at the city council meeting July 22. After several residents got up to condemn the ordinances, which restricted residents’ ability to keep, park and store RVs, boats and trailers, only one of the four passed — the ordinance which prohibited commercial vehicles from parking in residential or mixed-use zones for more than 72 hours. The other three were tabled pending future study.

Although the ordinances are separate documents, as a group they would effectively bar residents and visitors for parking boats, RVs, trailers, campers and other recreational-type equipment in the public right-of-way on a permanent or semi-permanent basis. They would also restrict the number of boats, campers or trailers a resident could store on his or her property — a total of two maximum, unless the vehicles are stored in the resident’s garage.

The revised ordinances will be passed through another street committee meeting before going before the full council for adoption. Wyatt said the committee wanted to make sure all pertinent issues had been addressed before passing the ordinances along. He said there will likely be no more public hearings on the matter, at least at the committee level.

“I don’t think it’s going to be necessary,” Wyatt said. “The changes the committee asked the staff to make are the changes the public requested.”

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