Loophole in city’s parking laws create “unenforceable” regulations

| August 26, 2014

You don’t know whose it is, but the broken down trailer with the peeling paint that’s been parked in front of your house for almost two months? Yeah, it’s not going anywhere.

Those are the circumstances that residents of Shenandoah, TX, face due to a loophole in the city’s parking laws. According to current ordinance, motorists can’t use residential streets to store recreational vehicles, trailers, and large trucks. Unfortunately, the ordinance doesn’t specify how long such vehicles can park on city streets before doing so qualifies as “storage.”

rusty parked truck

One unfortunate town made it impossible to enforce long-term parking rules. From Jeremy Engleman.

The loophole opens the door for situations where motorists can leave unsightly autos on public streets with no repercussion for their actions, but there are greater threats than disagreeable aesthetics. Shenandoah mayor Garry B. Watts and city council member Jean Teague raised, for example, the issue of safety, pointing to an example of a vehicle parked on Holly Hill Drive.

“It is very difficult to see around when you’re trying to make a right-hand turn, and you cannot see oncoming cars when you’re trying to turn left,” said Teague.

Watts and Teague brought the issue of the regulatory loophole before the city council earlier this month, when city administrator Greg Smith stressed the need for any revisions to be carefully crafted. Setting a time limit on street parking could, for instance, be easily abused when a driver, in an attempt to get around the time limit, simply moved his or her vehicle a touch forward or backward, said Smith. He or she could argue that the slight relocation should cause the clock to reset.

Smith’s example prompted council member Michael McLeod to ask how nearby towns are handling the problem, but according to Smith, policies are “all over the place.”

He did, however, highlight the city of West University’s unique approach to parking problems, whereby public officials “send an email and basically say, ‘Park your car in front of somebody else’s house the way you want somebody to park their car in front of you.’”

West University describes its approach as a “city-wide effort to be the neighborhood city with neighborly actions.” This “gentler, friendlier method of parking enforcement” seeks “to solve street parking issues without the heavy hand of government,” according to the city’s website. Less than neighborly drivers can expect “formal warnings and citations” after the initial niceties.

Smith said staff would explore revisions to the ordinance and bring their findings back as a discussion item for the next meeting of the city council.

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Category: Parking management

About the Author ()

Cielo Lutino is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn, NY. She has written for such publications as the L Magazine and Portland Monthly, and her literary nonfiction has appeared in journals such as the Los Angeles Review and Cold Mountain Review.

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