Whitehall folks will have to wait a few more days to see if city leaders will change the rules about residential parking.
Whitehall City Council is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 3, at Whitehall City Hall, 360 S. Yearling Road, to consider proposed legislation that would prohibit parking motor vehicles on impervious surfaces in the backyards of residences.
Council members at their Feb. 18 meeting postponed a decision until March 3 and were expected to further discuss the proposal at Feb. 25’s meeting of council committees.
“This process is charged on both sides,” council president Tom Potter said, adding council’s “depth and concern” to reach the best possible solution requires further consideration.
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.”
A proposed ordinance strikes “front yard or side yard” from the language of the ordinance, effectively prohibiting parking on unimproved areas, such as grass or gravel, on any part of a residential yard.
While council was unanimous in its decision to postpone the vote until March 3 – along with a companion ordinance that regulates the maximum area of impervious surface allowed based on lot size – a compromise does not appear readily clear.
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.
“When it was first (suggested in 2016), I didn’t like it, and my opinion hasn’t changed,” councilman Wes Kantor said.
The proposed legislation never was formally presented for consideration in 2016.
Service director Zach Woodruff introduced the current proposed legislation Jan. 14 and told council members the problem of multiple vehicles parked in the backyards of residences “has only gotten worse.”
Mayor Kim Maggard said the initiative is meant “to raise the quality of life in Whitehall.”
But some council members appear to view the proposal as an overreaction to isolated problems.
“You have certain properties, a very small percentage, that are a problem,” Kantor said, ”(but) 98% aren’t a problem, (yet) they will be in trouble for having a trailer parked on the grass (in the backyard). I don’t think that’s right.”
“We have a problem with certain properties,” he said. “I don’t have a solution, but we are working on it.”
Gerald Dixon, a Doney Street resident, said the legislation as is “will force both careless, junk-collecting, irresponsible citizens and caring, responsible vehicle-owners to both obey the law’s directive” and cautioned that unequal enforcement of it would violate the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution ensuring equal protection.
Nick Netotian of Etna Street said he keeps a trailer in his backyard. He said the proposed amendments to city code would require people like him “to pay the price” for “the extreme actions of a few.”
Councilwoman Karen Conison said she understands such concern and “is on the fence” regarding the proposed legislation.
“I have received an overwhelming number of calls and e-mails (from) those in favor and against (the proposal),” said Conison, adding she understands the views of residents who could face financial hardship if required to build a concrete pad, as well as those who don’t want to see a “junkyard” next door.
Councilwoman Lori Elmore said council is listening to residents, but they should be prepared for a compromise.
“Everyone won’t be satisfied with the outcome, but my hope is that everyone will be able to come together and make Whitehall the city that we all want to have,” she said.