Commercial parking rule suspended

COVINGTON -- The City Council unanimously voted Monday night to suspend enforcement of an ordinance regulating the parking of commercial vehicles in residential areas while a new ordinance is drafted.

The current ordinance prohibits the parking or storage of any vehicle weighing more than 2,000 pounds without an enclosed structure or to the side or rear of a residence unless the property is 3 acres or larger. It also requires vehicles of 2,000 pounds or less to be parked on concrete, asphalt or gravel driveways or parking areas and makes it unlawful to park on grass or dirt areas.

Officials are reworking the ordinance, but in the meantime, "Nobody gets a ticket until we get a new ordinance," said Councilman Mike Whatley.

Following a citizen's complaint earlier this year that heavy construction equipment was being parked in her neighborhood, city officials commenced to work up an ordinance addressing commercial vehicle parking in residential zones. At the time, officials believed there was no such ordinance on the books.

A draft ordinance would have prohibited the parking of vehicles weighing more than 19,500 pounds or longer than 25 feet in residential areas, unless parked in an enclosed structure. It excluded government vehicles, such as school buses, and recreational vehicles.

But just before it came to a vote, it was discovered that an ordinance was, in fact, already on the books and it was much more restrictive than what the council was considering.

Councilman Keith Dalton said he realized there would be a conflict and recommended the ordinance be sent to the city attorney to be reworked. He said some provisions in the draft are inconsistent. For example, the 19,500 pound weight limit would allow a semi-truck, but some smaller vehicles, depending on how they are configured, would be excluded, he said. Also, the ordinance as written excludes recreational vehicles, meaning, "You could have as big a motor home as you want," he said.

Dalton said he wants to pass an ordinance that will be fair and enforceable. The issue has been a source of confusion for residents. Monday, residents on both sides of the debate showed up to the meeting. One trucker thanked the council for not passing the draft ordinance. But Mayor Kim Carter pointed out that the current ordinance was more restrictive and would mean he would have to remove his rig from his property if enforced.

"If we did nothing it seems like there would be a lot more folks in violation than if we did something," she said.

Virginia Hoffman of Forest Drive, who first brought the matter to the city's attention, brought a contingent of neighbors. Hoffman first complained last winter that a neighbor was parking construction equipment in his yard, and another was selling cars on his residential property. She told the council little has been done to solve her problem, and accused Dalton of a conflict of interest. Hoffman said Dalton, who lives in her neighborhood, parks commercial vehicles on his property and later claimed he is running a business out of his home.

"A lot of us feel like you started our problems over there, Keith, and here you are making rules for all of us in the city of Covington. It's not right," she said.

Reached on Tuesday, Dalton denied those claims. He said that he has numerous recreational vehicles and his personal vehicle, which he uses as a work truck, parked on his property, but not commercial vehicles.

"I haven't broken any laws," he said.

The ordinance is currently in the hands of City Attorney Ed Crudup.

"I'm trying hard to discern what the council's wishes are," Crudup said.