A homeowners'-association trustee in Violet Township thinks restrictions should be approved to thwart people who leave vehicles parked on residential streets for extended periods, but local officials are not sure there is much they can do.
David Stemen said over the past three years he has become increasingly frustrated by a situation he believes is less than neighborly in the Jefferson Farms subdivision in Violet Township.
Stemen said situations have arisen in which some Jefferson Farms residents have had to deal with neighbors' vehicles being parked on streets in front of their residencess for extended periods of time.
"As it stands right now, somebody can own 10 cars and as long as they have license plates and registration, they can park them in front of their neighbors' houses for a long time," Stemen said.
"They may sit out in front of someone else's house for up to a year."
Whereas the Jefferson Farms Homeowners' Association has rules in place that limit the length of time someone can park a camper or motor home in their own driveway, it lacks authority to govern the public streets that run through its subdivision.
Stemen has asked Violet Township officials to pass legislation to address what he calls long-term parking issues.
"It needs to be enhanced for long-term parking out in front of someone else's house," he said. "That's what we're after.
"It's really something that should have been addressed a long time ago."
Although a solution that would satisfy him has yet to be found, Stemen acknowledges the Violet Township board of trustees and Township Engineer Greg Butcher have been receptive to his concerns.
He said they have met with him multiple occasions and promised they will continue to work with the Fairfield County Prosecutor and Sheriff's offices to see if any additional legislation or enforcement can be established.
Butcher said he's in the process of discussing the issues specific to Jefferson Farms with Fairfield County Prosecutor Kyle Witt but noted similar concerns that have popped up over the past 18 years he has served as township engineer have failed to bring forward an effective resolution.
For one, Butcher said, the township has limited authority to enact parking restrictions.
He said if a vehicle has up-to-date registration and is parked legally on a street, there is not much the township can do.
"We just don't have the statutory authority as some municipalities do to post 'no-parking' restrictions," Butcher said. "If we did, I think we would still have to evaluate those on a case-by-case basis, especially as it pertains to fire, (emergency-medical services) and law enforcement access."
Butcher said township officials have reviewed situations in Jefferson Farms and other residential areas of the township where parking conflicts have arisen.
He said those who are parking on streets in a legal fashion, and who have current vehicle registration, theoretically can park for as long as they like on a street, provided they're not creating any sight-distance issues for traffic or making it difficult for law enforcement or other public-safety vehicles to move up and down a street.
"We want to be sensitive to homeowners' associations ... but we're also sensitive to what we can and can't do as it pertains to establishing parking zones."
Pickerington restricts on-street parking to 48 hours, after which a vehicle must be moved. Columbus' city code dictates no vehicle can be parked for longer than 72 consecutive hours. And when it is moved it must be moved at least 75 feet. Pickerington has no distance requirement.
Butcher said the township is looking into whether it has the authority to put time-limit restrictions in place but noted they easily can be skirted by people who simply move their vehicles a short distance every other day or so.
"I believe there is a statute prohibiting parking on expressways for more than 72 hours," he said. "However, I am unaware of a similar statute prohibiting continuous on-street parking for more than 72 hours on local roads -- (such as) residential subdivision streets -- within unincorporated areas within the state of Ohio.
"This is also what has been conveyed to me by personnel at the Fairfield County Sheriff's Office, who are ultimately responsible for enforcement of traffic laws in our county."
Butcher said the township's trustees have instructed him to get more information and guidance from the county prosecutor to see if additional legislation could address issues such as those Stemen has raised.
"In numerous prior conversations with the prosecutor's office related to this type of issue, this would not be a consideration for legislation," Butcher said.
"However, as a commitment to a resident who has taken the time to express this concern, we want to be responsive. We're going to confirm what we can do through the Prosecutor's Office."
Witt said he didn't have knowledge of the situation in Jefferson Farms and couldn't speak to what remedies Violet Township might have for on-street parking.
He said it's possible the township could enact consecutive on-street parking limits, but he would have to research the situation more before saying conclusively.
"I'm not saying they have the ability to address the conduct that's being complained about," Witt said. "I don't know how those roads (in Jefferson Farms) are classified, and there are a lot of layers to that.
"I think those questions can impact (Violet Township's) ability to regulate that."
Witt noted that even if the township added legislation to limit consecutive on-street parking, it could present challenges to law enforcement agencies charged with issuing tickets or towing offenders.
"The Sheriff's Office, I don't think I'm going out on a limb by saying, they're already stretched pretty far," Witt said. "So, the question becomes, who's going to enforce it?"
Butcher said during his 18 years as engineer, Violet Township has received "occasional" complaints about similar on-street parking issues.
He said the sheriff's office has investigated and determined the vehicles in question legally are registered and legally parked.
Until otherwise instructed, however, he said it appears the issue is Jefferson Farms is one that will have to be resolved between neighbors.
"(Stemen) is in a position as a homeowners' association trustee to reach out to his fellow homeowner members and see if there can be some kind of resolution," Butcher said. "I've offered to broker a meeting with Jefferson Farms residents, the sheriff's office and the prosecutor's office."
Stemen described Jefferson Farms as a "pretty quiet" neighborhood, and acknowledged there is only one instance where extended on-street parking has caused conflicts among residents.
Still, he said he is hopeful more can be done so residents in his subdivision and throughout the township aren't inconvenienced or at odds with each other.
He said with the situation in question, the person who's been parking vehicles in front of neighbors' houses has open, on-street parking in front of his own property.
"It just needs to be a little bit more definitive," Stemen said. "I just think it can't be a long-term parking solution to park your car in front of your neighbor's house.
"That's just crazy. Most of us want more cars, but we just don't have the parking."
Stemen lack of on-street parking laws in Violet Township wouldn't prevent someone who lives outside a neighborhood from parking vehicles on someone else's residential street for an indefinite period.
"We've got so many rules," he said. "This has to be regulated."