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City, after marathon debate, approves parking exemptions

The battered, ink-covered document that emerged from Monday night’s Port Orchard City Council meeting bore little resemblance to the list of parking exemption criteria introduced for approval earlier that evening.

After an hour of failed motions, amendments and amendments to the amendments, the council successfully passed a set of guidelines under which it could give permission for city residents to park their boats and RVs in the public right-of-way.

At the heart of the seemingly endless debate was the council’s obvious difficulty in bringing all of Port Orchard’s streets under a single, all-inclusive definition.

Parts of the original criteria resolution called for no exemptions on streets narrower than 28 feet. The street committee believed RVs and boats would block such narrow streets and impede emergency vehicle access. However, as several citizens pointed out, that restriction did not take into account dead-end streets or streets with a significant level dirt shoulder.

“It’s unfortunate with the 28 feet,” said Councilman Todd Cramer. “A lot of streets are not 28 feet — I live on one. I understand the safety concerns, but ...”

In the end, Councilman John Clauson successfully struck the width stipulation from the resolution — only Councilman Don Morrison, chair of the street committee, objected to the change.

Other issues about neighborhood feuding cropped up, particularly in reference to the portion of the resolution that required neighbor approval for the parking exemption. The debate grew heated as council members and residents in the audience argued over the influence of public opinion on private property.

“Part of our responsibility is the aesthetics of the community,” Morrison said.

“I appreciate my neighbors may not want to look at (a boat or RV),” disagreed Rita DiIenno, who is running unopposed for Morrison’s soon-to-be-vacant seat. “But after you’ve handled the health and safety issue, whether my neighbor wants to look at it is immaterial.”

Cramer said he believed parking should be considered more of a right than a privilege. He wanted the whole resolution sent back to committee for a major overhaul.

Cramer also said he thought the city should be much more “proactive” about telling people about the exemption criteria — he suggested handing out copies of the exemption resolution with any parking tickets written on boats or RVs.

To balance the multiple perspectives, the council instead removed all language that mandated certain actions — parking 25 feet from one’s property line and getting full neighborhood approval. The only mandates that remained in the end were the section outlining exemption paperwork to be submitted and the sections dealing with public health and safety issues, such as safe passage and lines of sight.

As of last Wednesday, parking enforcement started handing out warnings to those in violation of the city’s new parking rules. Any residents who want to park their RVs and boats in the city rights-of-way for more than 24 hours must apply for an exemption through the city clerk. Exemption requests, which must be filed for a specific vehicle for a specific amount of time, will be heard by the full council at one of its regular meetings, held twice a month.

“Nothing’s automatic,” warned city engineer Larry Curles, who oversees the city’s parking enforcement. “It just goes through staff and the street committee to the council.”

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