Donald Minor repairs and restores vehicles inside a one-car garage behind his Westphal Avenue home.

It's a pastime that could be affected if Whitehall City Council broadens city code to prohibit parking on unimproved surfaces in city backyards.

"I could park cars in my driveway since I moved here (20 years ago), and now they want to change the rules," said Minor.

Minor swaps out the vehicles as needed from a 160-foot gravel driveway between Westphal Avenue and a nearby alley.

He said it would cost about $7,000 to surface the driveway next to the residence built in 1934.

City Council members say they will take the time to land on a solution "to make everyone happy" and find a balance between personal-property rights and property-maintenance standards -- but they appear poised to approve legislation that would prohibit parking on unimproved surfaces, including gravel and grass, in backyards.

Current city code prohibits parking an "automobile, motorcycle or other motor vehicle, boat or trailer" on "any non-impervious surface, non-parking or non-driveway portion of the front yard or side yard."

The proposed amendment would strike "front yard or side" from the language of the ordinance, effectively prohibiting parking on unimproved areas, such as grass, of a residential yard.

Current code also includes a requirement that "all vehicles parked in the parking areas of driveways shall bear the current registration or license plates required by Ohio Revised Code."

Minor, along with Gerald Dixon, a Doney Street resident, spoke in opposition to the proposal when it was introduced at the Jan. 21 council meeting.

Council members advanced the legislation, without any discussion among themselves, to a second reading at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 4, at Whitehall City Hall, 360 S. Yearling Road.

After the meeting, Whitehall Ward 1 councilman Chris Rodriguez said the proposed legislation is "pretty fair."

"We're just asking people to not park on grass," he said.

Ward 4 councilwoman Lori Elmore said residents "need to be good neighbors."

At-large councilman and president pro-tempore Robert Bailey said council members would continue to review the proposal and "work together to figure out a way to make everyone happy."

At-large councilwoman Karen Conison said she wanted to research the policies of other cities before opining on the legislation.

Dixon, who lost a bid for a council seat in 2019 in his third attempt at elected office, said the legislation equates to "my government granting themselves the right to stick their nose in the liberties of citizens' backyards."

The proposal was "unethically born" from photographs taken of residents' backyards that "flouted" the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which protects citizens against unreasonable searches and seizures, said Dixon, referring to photos that service director Zach Woodruff provided to council when introducing the legislation.

The photos included aerial images from the Franklin County Auditor's Office and some taken by Whitehall's zoning officer.

"You are a guarantor of the citizens' rights and not their grantor," said Dixon, who appealed to council not to "give credence to those things which undermine citizens' rights but instead to that which ensures the citizens of Whitehall that their rights are being properly respected and served."

But city officials maintain the proposal is necessary.

Mayor Kim Maggard said the initiative is meant "to raise the quality of life in Whitehall."

"Unfortunately, we have had a proliferation of backyard junkyards, and it affects the quality of life of residents living next to one," Maggard said.

Woodruff agreed, saying the problem has become worse since he first suggested a backyard-parking ban two years ago.

The proposed legislation also considers the possibility a homeowner might simply pave over grass.

Any lot 7,500 square feet or smaller is limited to 50% impervious surface; lots greater than 7,500 square feet are limited to 4,500 square feet of impervious surface, Woodruff said. Jim Graham, who stepped down as council president at the end of last year, addressed council as a resident to support the proposal.

"It will make our city more attractive," he said.

At-large councilman Wes Kantor, who said he opposed a backyard-parking ban two years ago when the legislation failed to gain traction, hopes a different solution is found.

Kantor said he considers the current proposal an "overreaction" to a minuscule number of residents with too many cars in their backyards but does not yet know how to address that problem without infringing on the personal property rights of residents.