Discussion Continues on Proposed Accessory Vehicle Ordinance
Commissioners Anna Haines and Tony Patton. (City-Times photo)
Commissioners Not Convinced by Ordinance Proposal
By Patrick Lynn
Stevens Point Plan Commissioners continue the nail down details on a draft of a proposed ordinance regulating where city residents can park accessory vehicles, including motor homes, RV’s and trailers, on their own property.
The commission has not yet voted the ordinance, and the matter remains up only for discussion in the near future.
The idea was brought to the commission in August by Alderman Mike Phillips, who said for years he’s heard complaints from constituents of neighbors who ignore lot lines and yards over-stuffed with snowmobiles and similar items.
The proposed ordinance, if passed, would fall under the city’s property maintenance code, and commissioners have dozens of details to consider including setbacks from streets and what types of vehicles can be stored in which locations on a privately-owned residential lot.
“(The draft) indicates all the things that you could regulate,” said City Development Director Michael Ostrowski. “We’re not recommending that you do, but these are things you should consider in an ordinance.” Ostrowski. “Depending on how stringent or aggressive you get with this, there could be a lot of properties this affects.”
Commissioner Anna Haines said she worried from the start how the ordinance could be enforced.
“My initial comment on this is that it’s so detailed- there’s so much here, do we really need this? And then enforcement issues- I can’t even imagine,” Haines said. “The whole thing…my gosh, why are we doing this? That’s where I’m at.”
Mayor Andrew Halverson has consistently been opposed to the ordinance, saying last month he believed the city “shouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole”. But he also acknowledged some properties throughout the city should be better patrolled by the city’s inspection department, but noted they should be considered on a case-by-case basis because some residential lots are oddly shaped.
“In my opinion there are very negative situations that do exist, and there would need to be elements to go after that. If you like at things on a case-by-case basis, there are going to be parcels with the exact mode of noncompliance that would look, literally, very different in a certain neighborhood than it would in another,” Halverson said, adding he thinks the only part of the ordinance that should be pursued by the commission was the front yard setback.
But that could also create problems for homeowners who already live on a small lot.
“For someone who lives on a small lot, they don’t have a choice but to use their front yard,” said Alderman Jerry Moore. “So are you going to force them to get a storage unit, spend extra money when he’s got 30 feet of ground to put it on?”
Commissioner Gary Curless agreed with Halverson, saying he wanted the ordinance to move forward with across-the-board prohibition on storing any items in a front yard.
“It should all be on the side of the house, or the back- nothing in the front,” he said. “And if it’s a motor home, I think it should be treated the same as if it were an addition on a house. So in other words, you can’t put your motor home on the lot line so your neighbor looks out the side of his house and he sees that motor home. He shouldn’t have to.”
Alderman Phillips said he inadvertently opened a hornet’s nest when he came forward with the proposal, saying he only wanted the city to look at vacant property storage. Phillips said when he first built his home on Mary Street several years ago he was denied permission to build a free-standing garage to store equipment in while constructing the main residence- despite seeing many other vacant lots having such storage.
“There’s vacant lots with all this stuff on there; that’s the only concern I had was vacant lots throughout the city,” Phillips said. “I just wanted the vacant lots addressed; you want to add something to that, fine.”
The commission agreed to continue discussion of the issue taking into consideration public input. The measure could come up for more discussion next month.