Ten meetings to gather public input and develop clear rules about what will and will not be permitted in driveways went into the proposed ordinance put before the Lonsdale City Council on Thursday.
During that meeting, City Planner Benjamin Baker reviewed changes to the proposed ordinance, after it had been tabled at the previous council meeting for more clarification regarding commercial vehicles. The council then approved the changes and the ordinance, which will be put into law after a summary is published by the city in an upcoming issue of the News-Review.
After hearing complaints from residents last summer about what was being stored in neighboring driveways and yards, the Planning and Zoning Commission reviewed the ordinance on the books and found it to be too restrictive and not easily enforced. The commission then took on the task of revising the regulations with three goals in mind:
1. Promote off-street parking (It’s better than having vehicles parked in the street)
2. Lessen the visual impact of off-street parking
3. Create regulations that are “realistic” for both compliance and enforcement
Baker repeated at several meetings that the city was not looking to increase restrictions on residents; instead, staff wanted to make the rules clear and realistic for all involved, and to make neighborhoods look their best.
There are several regulations included in the 22-page document that defines what items and vehicles are allowable outside a residence. When it comes to vehicles, they are categorized as standard, recreational (major, minor and seasonal), commercial (major and minor), utility trailers and seasonal. The limits are as follows: A maximum of four standard vehicles may be parked outside a residence; a maximum of three recreational vehicles may be parked at a residence; one commercial vehicle will count as two standard vehicles; one major recreational vehicle shall be counted as two recreational vehicles; and one recreational vehicle trailer under 24 feet holding any combination of recreational vehicles will be counted as one recreational vehicle.
Seasonal vehicles are those designed for use in either warm or cold weather seasons. Warm weather vehicles will be allowed from April 1 through Oct. 31 in a given year. Cold weather vehicles will be allowed between Nov. 1 and March 31.
There are locations on a residential lot that are allowable for some vehicles but not for others. Standard motor vehicles, recreational vehicles and/or commercial vehicles shall be limited to garages, driveways, and other permitted parking areas of residential properties.
Driveways and parking areas
The ordinance also regulates what surfaces are allowable as parking pads. All vehicles must be parked on a hard, dust-free surface such as concrete, asphalt, pavers, or on a city-approved decorative rock surface. Decorative rock shall not be used to surface any main driveway areas. All driveways and parking areas must be maintained.
Exact type of vehicle’s setback requirements and permitted location are mapped out with charts that are included in the ordinance.
Baker made it clear that not all lots in the city will work with the requirements on the charts, and for those properties, the city will offer a special permit, at no charge, in an effort to document the non-conformity.
“I appreciate your work,” Mayor Tim Rud stated. “Obviously, we want those in the trades to know we don’t want to make this a hardship.”
City Administrator Joel Erickson then spoke on the enforcement of the ordinance by the Lonsdale Police Department. He said when there are issues, property owners would be given a Notice of Violation and seven days to correct it.
“If it’s a parking issue, I’m sure they’ll take care of it the next time they drive into their driveway. If not, a citation will be issued,” he said. “I anticipate the most questions and concerns will be with parking pads.”
Erickson said he and city staff did an inventory of all the parking pads in town and took video or photos of each.
“We’ll notify property owners so they know we’re not singling them out or their neighborhood. We’ll provide them with the new requirements and inform them that they’re non-compliant. Improvements may be as simple as installing edging,” Erickson said. “We’ll have to work with those property owners to work with the size of their parking pad. They’ll meet with us and complete it within 30 days. We’ll work with them. The worst non-compliant parking pads will be notified first. Then we’ll take areas of town and deal with a section of town at a time. We’ll stay as consistent as possible. Every situation is different. That’s how we plan to enforce, follow up and work on visual impact.”
Rud repeated what Erickson said about allowing residents time to correct non-compliance issues.
“The goal is to work with the residents, get things consistent and get things cleaned up,” he said, encouraging residents to talk to city staff or a council member if there are any questions. “The advisory board and staff have done a lot of work on this, and it’s not easy in a small town.”
Erickson later said that staff would also be publishing a guest column in an upcoming issue of the News-Review explaining the ordinance and addressing some of the most common questions asked during the meetings.
A full copy of the ordinance is available at city hall.