Front yard parking discussed by council

The Red Oak City Council is considering an ordinance prohibiting parking in the front yard of Red Oak residences.

Red Oak Mayor Bill Billings said he had personally toured the city to determine how big of an issue it was in the city.

“I have had people asking how much of a problem this is. I took an hour and drove around town, and it only took me that hour to accumulate over 40 pictures of cars parked in front yards and side yards that are illegally parked, parked without licenses, or that were junk property. This is not being brought up because of one or two instances, and we’re not picking on anyone. It’s part of a process to clean up nuisances and beautify our community,” said Billings.

City administrator Brad Wright said he had not yet put an official ordinance together, but had a few ideas to start conversations.

“The primary focus is to prevent people from pulling up and parking in their front yards, unless it is onto an improved parking surface, be it asphalt, concrete, or pavers. One of the unanswered questions is the allowance of parking on gravel. Any time to try to solve one issue, you want to be careful not to create a nightmare,” Wright said. “There are several places with gravel driveways and parking now. I think if we don’t at least grandfather those in, we will be taking on an unenforceable nightmare. I think we need to find a way to grandfather those in, and then have a conversation about whether or not to continue to allow new gravel parking areas under certain conditions.”

Wright added, the phrasing needed to be specific, to deter anyone from solving the issue of parking in the front yard be dumping a load of rock in the area they wanted to park in, and said that would not be a nice sight either.

Billings agreed there are hundreds of gravel driveways in town, and the goal of the potential ordinance was not to cause financial burden or hardship to anyone.

Wright’s proposal included verbiage stating no improved parking surface shall cover more than 50 percent of the yard. The number, Wright said, was based off of other ordinances.

“I saw some as low as 25 percent, and I saw some as high as 67 percent. I reached that decision based on some of the narrow lots we have in town. I struggled to go much lower than that, as in some cases they wouldn’t even have a two-car drive. That’s one of the things the council needs to decide, as we don’t want someone’s entire front yard paved and turned into a parking area either,” advised Wright.

Other cities in the area, such as Stanton and Essex, have ordinances regarding the parking of cars in front yards.

Brian Bills addressed the council, and said he had concerns about residents who only had parking through a gravel driveway, and whether or not they would be required to have paved parking when their parking is off of a gravel driveway.

Wright said the council’s consensus would be to allow gravel with certain definitions. Bills asked what would happen if a residence had no parking and they had visitors, and Billings said that he was in a similar situation and visitors were required to use side streets. Bills felt there were other options the city should consider.

“ I want to clean up Red Oak too, and I understand there are problem properties, but maybe they can be dealt with other than with an ordinance. Maybe we can have our nuisance officer to handle those situations,” Bills said.

Wright said that a nuisance officer could not be sent out, because without a city ordinance nothing could be done because it was currently not a violation to park a vehicle in the yard, and therefore nothing could be done when it came to reinforcement.

Wright said he would work on a draft including the allowance for gravel, grandfathering in the existing gravel alleys and driveways currently in the city. The council will re-examine the ordinance at a future meeting.  

The Red Oak Express

2012 Commerce Drive
P.O. Box 377
Red Oak, IA 51566
Phone: 712-623-2566 Fax: 712-623-2568

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