RV/boat exemption process draws fire

The second round of RV/boat parking exemptions didn’t go quite as smoothly as the Port Orchard City Council’s street committee anticipated.

At the last meeting in November, the council backed the committee’s recommendations and denied four exemption requests with no debate whatsoever. At the council’s first December meeting, however, a single request for permission to park an RV on Norton Street launched a heated exchange between council members and eventually resulted in a 3-2 vote striking down street committee chair Councilman Don Morrison’s motion to deny.

“There’s a difference between parking on a thoroughfare and parking on a dead-end street,” said Councilman John Clauson, responding to Morrison’s comments about the RV blocking street access.

In addition to the basic question of whether the RV — owned by Rockwell Avenue resident Marvin Roland — did in fact pose a public hazard, other concerns about the parking restrictions themselves were also raised.

The unpopular ordinance, which bans boat and RV parking in most city rights-of-way, was passed last summer over strenuous objections from city residents. To accommodate some of the residents’ concerns, the city drafted a resolution that allowed residents to seek exemptions from the ordinance and gave guidelines under which such exemptions would be granted.

So far, the only exemption granted was given to a resident who planned to park his RV completely off the road on the dirt shoulder. Two other exemptions addressed vehicles that would have been allowed to park anyway, under the provisions of the ordinance.

Councilwoman Carolyn Powers raised the question of whether the exemption guidelines were even worthwhile to consider, given the problems posed by the city’s largely narrow streets.

“Wouldn’t any motor home parked in the right-of-way have the potential to block?” she asked, echoing one of Morrison’s earlier comments.

In addition, Councilman Todd Cramer expressed disappointment that the council had not made more attempts to make the exemption process more public. Last month, the four residents who got turned down for exemptions said they were never given any information about the status of their requests. In fact, one week after the council decided to reject their applications, none had heard of the decision, or even the vote.

Cramer said because the exemption system is so new, it would have been a good idea to invite more public comment.

“It seems we slam-dunked this through committee,” he said.

Morrison is currently on an extended vacation and was not available to comment. Councilman Rick Wyatt, who also serves on the street committee, said on Monday he will be reintroducing Roland’s request on behalf of the committee and recommending approval.

The only remaining member of the committee, Councilman Bob Geiger, has recused himself from voting on the Roland exemption because he lives nearby.

Wyatt said although he originally voted to deny Roland’s application, since then he revisited the site and determined it was worth it to give Roland the benefit of the doubt.

“I feel we can revisit it in a year if there have been complaints,” Wyatt said.

As far as Wyatt knows, there are no other parking exemption requests pending at this time.

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