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City Council shoots down boat/RV ordinance again

As was expected, a crowd of angry Port Orchard residents turned out Monday night to oppose the newest version of the hotly debated boat/RV parking ordinance.

The new ordinance, which has been under revision in the city council’s street committee for more than eight months, makes two major changes to the original proposed ordinance. First, it bumps up the grace period for boat and RV parking in residential and mixed-use areas from four hours to 24 hours. Second, it adds a “chain parking” clause that prohibits vehicle owners from simply moving their RVs or trailers a few feet every day.

Chain parking became a serious problem with another similar ordinance that restricted commercial vehicle parking in residential and mixed-use areas. Apparently, resident who had been the target of the ordinance baffled city officals by religiously moving their vehicles often enough to avoid citation.

The council is looking to avoid a repeat of that situation by requiring owners who move their vehicles to re-park them at least two blocks away. The two-block restriction is expected to discourage serial movers but not overly inconvenience residents who take their vehicles out every day or need to use the street for short periods of time.

As with the first proposed ordinance, the revised version limits property owners to two vehicles — trailers, boats, RVs or a combination — parked on their properties at one time. The ordinance exempts small watercraft such as canoes and kayaks and allows residents to have more than two restricted vehicles as long as the extras are concealed from view.

Street committee chair Councilman Don Morrison said he was happy with the revisions and believed the new ordinance would do a lot to improve the city’s appearance.

“People are plugging the driveways up with a number of vehicles and it’s impacting the neighborhood,” Morrison said.

Residents who attended Monday’s night’s council meeting, however, appeared to disagree.

Resident Martin DiIenno, who owns two boats and an RV, said the ordinance was discriminatory because it penalized people who favored recreational vehicles over regular cars and trucks. He said simply because he chooses to put his discretionary money into boats, while others choose to buy cars, is no reason for the city to target him. DiIenno said if the city was really serious about reducing driveway clutter, it should at least be fair and impose limits on the number of vehicles in general — not just boats and RVs.

“There are a lot of people in this room that own more than two cars, and what’s the difference?” he asked.

RV-owner Richard Ness said putting his vehicle in a storage yard — the solution offered by the council — was not an option. He pointed out most storage yards do not have water or electricity hook-ups — a major problem for those who use their trailers regularly.

Resident Rita DiIenno said even infrequent users will suffer if they have to put their extra RVs in utility-bare lots. Heat, she explained, is crucial for keeping mold out of unused RVs during the winter and mold, once established, is very hard to get rid of. Making residents stash their trailers in storage yards, DiIenno said, would essentially rob them of their considerable investment.

“This isn’t a gated community,” she said. “I didn’t sign a covenant restricting the storage of vehicles on my property.”

Other residents took a harsher view of the situation. Two — Kathy Michael and Brett Ness — said the ordinance violated basic property rights. Ness was almost shouting as he questioned the council’s motives in presenting the ordinance and berated them for imposing themselves on private property owners.

“Why are you taking it upon yourself to play God?” he said. “It’s our property — we pay taxes on it. If I have three RVs on my property, what difference does that make to you?”

“I don’t care who you are,” Ness continued. “That’s none of your business.”

Resident Marvin Rowan echoed another common concern — space availability.

Although the ordinance allows residents to park their trailers and RVs on their own property, many city lots are almost completely filled by the houses that sit on them.

Rowan said he lives on a small lot on a dead-end street. He said his RV is not in the way of traffic but is far too big to park on his property. Storage, Rowan explained, is not an option.

“I’ve worked 35 years for what I’ve got and you guys want to take it away from me,” he said.

Several council members pointed out the ordinance allowed for individual exemptions at the discretion of the city council. However, few seemed ready to accept the risk of being rejected and being forced to sell their excess vehicles.

After listening to the testimony, Councilman Ron Rider suggested revisiting the need for the ordinance at all. He said it appeared there were only a few residents causing problems and suggested dealing with those chronic pack-rats with a nuisance ordinance, rather than inconvenience the whole community with a blanket parking ordinance.

“I’m usually of the opinion that less government is better,” Rider said. “We’re picking on a few people for what?”

The council voted 6-1 to table the ordinance for further review. Morrison was the only council member to vote against further delay.

“The streets are meant for transit and necessarily parking areas,” he said.

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