Whitehall residents will be allowed to keep one motor vehicle on backyard grass or gravel surfaces after City Council on March 3 amended legislation that would have prohibited parking any motor vehicle on any impervious surfaces.

Whitehall service director Zach Woodruff said he suggested the amendment.

“Based on the concerns of City Council and the public feedback they were receiving, I suggested the amendment to seek a compromise that I feel reaches middle ground and still achieves our goal,” Woodruff said March 4.

Still, the decision was not unanimous.

By a 5-2 vote, with councilwoman Karen Conison and councilman Wes Kantor dissenting, council approved the ordinance that limits residents to having one motor vehicle parked on any impervious surface in the backyard of a residence.

“I don’t feel right about it (and) I don’t see it as a win-win,” Kantor said March 4.

“I think it is a slap in the face of our residents to tell them what they can and can’t do on their own property. We failed the majority of our residents,” said Kantor, who acknowledged the presence of a “very small problem” with people who have multiple inoperable vehicles on their property.

“But I think that can be addressed with our existing code (and) there are other violations (visible from the street) that we should address first,” said Kantor, who was opposed to the same proposal when it was first suggested four years ago.

“When it was first suggested, I didn’t like it, and my opinion hasn’t changed,” he said.

The proposed legislation never was formally presented for consideration in 2016.

Because the problem persisted, Woodruff said the legislation approved March 3 was a needed step.

Woodruff introduced the original proposed legislation Jan. 14, telling council members the problem of multiple vehicles parked in the backyards of residents “has only gotten worse.”

The amended legislation does two things, Woodruff said.

It limits residents having one motor vehicle parked on an impervious surface in the backyard; and it requires any additional motor vehicles to be parked on nonimpervious surfaces or a surface otherwise approved by the city’s service department, Woodruff said.

City code previously had prohibited 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,” and that prohibition remains in effect.

The proposed ordinance, until it was amended March 3, struck “front yard or side yard” from the language of the ordinance, effectively prohibiting parking on any unimproved areas, such as grass or gravel, of a residential yard.

The amendment allows residents to have “not more than one automobile, motorcycle or other motor vehicle, boat or trailer” to remain “on any non-impervious surface, any improved surface not approved (by the city), non-parking or non-driveway portion of any residential or apartment-zoned lot.”

The ordinance does not have emergency language and becomes effective 20 days after its passage, Woodruff said.

The amendment appears to address the concerns of residents like Nick Netotian, of Etna Street, who keeps a trailer in his backyard, and told City Council on Feb. 18 that the proposed amendments to the city code would require people like him “to pay the price” for “the extreme actions of a few.”

Council President Tom Potter called the enacted legislation “a very fair and equitable compromise that will best serve all parties involved.”

“There was significant conversation over the last two months about the language,” Potter said March 4.

Council on Feb. 18 tabled the legislation at its third and final reading to allow even further discussion of the concerns that residents voiced which “were carefully considered,” said Potter, who as president does not vote except in the event of a tie.

Council members Bob Bailey, Lori Elmore, JoAnna Heck, Larry Morrison and Chris Rodriguez voted in favor of the amended legislation.

City Council also approved legislation March 3 that regulates the amount of impervious surface area permitted on a residential lot.

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.

The ordinance passed by the same 5-2 tally, with Conison and Kantor dissenting.

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