City considering changes to RV, trailer parking on residential streets

Due to a number of complaints, city staff has again reviewed the city code regarding recreational vehicles, trailers and the like being parked on city streets for extended periods of time.

Jeff Hindoien, deputy city attorney, said that the issue has been reviewed a number of times over the years.

City staff has discussed the same issue in at least 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2016.

The changes proposed in 2011 are similar to what staff is now proposing and the commission at the time took no action.

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In 2016, the discussion lead to changes in the code for off street parking of recreational vehicles on residential properties that were approved in 2017.

Those changes included expanded driveway widths and the allowance of gravel or pavers for a parking surface instead of the formerly required concrete or asphalt, which was more costly for homeowners.

The proposed code changes would be within the city’s existing Title 10 parking code and would create categories specifically for recreational vehicles, trailers and vessels such as boats, Hindoien said.

The proposed code change would only allow temporary parking of these types of vehicles in residential zoning districts for 36 hours in any seven day period and only park within 200 feet of a person’s property boundary.

Under the proposed code changes, enforcement mechanisms would be included in Title 10 and start with written notice, then citations and fines to be established by the City Commission as well as consequences for non-payment of fines that could include collects agency referral and/or Municipal Court and the vehicle could be booted after the second or subsequent infraction, Hindoien said.

He told commissioners that they need to consider how the new rules, if adopted, would be rolled out; the duration of any time period allowed to park on the street; what the fine structure would be and the availability of city resources for enforcement that will be complaint driven as it is now.

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The policy objective is to only have recreational vehicles and the like parked on city residential streets for loading and unloading versus storing them on public streets.

Commissioner Owen Robinson said he was “very much in favor it this” but asked if anyone had conducted a study on whether there was enough places for people to store these types of vehicles in the community.

He also expressed concern that some older residents were afraid to report complaints because they were bullied by their neighbors.

Commissioner Rick Tryon asked if they could add rules for parking near curbs and intersections, to which Great Falls Police Chief Jeff Newton and Planning Director Craig Raymond said those rules were already in the code.

Tryon said he was concerned enforcement of such rules would put more burden on the police department.

Newton said it would be an issue of resources for enforcement.

“I’m not going to assign patrol officers who are supposed to be going to violent crimes to chase around campers,” Newton said. “It comes down to sheer resources.”

Newton asked commissioners to keep that in mind while considering this proposed code change.

He said he understands these are quality of life issues and frustrations for residents, but police have limited resources and enforcement becomes challenging.

Mayor Bob Kelly said, “I do think strongly think this is beyond a quality of life issue it’s a safety issue.”

Tryon asked if staff had any idea how often this is a problem in the city.

Newton said he lives on the east end of town and there are campers and boats all over the place.

“As far as how many complaints, I don’t know, I assume we would probably get a ton,” Newton said if this proposal was adopted.

He said that the city would have to do significant public education before enforcement begins since “people in this community have been parking their trailers and campers on the street for as long as I’ve been working here.”

Kelly said staff should research what other communities charge for violations but that in his mind it would be something along the lines of “$25/$50/$100/we take your vehicle.”

Commissioner Mary Moe said that she considered it a safety issue but that they need to be cognizant of whether there are enough storage facilities in the community as well as the cost.

Kelly said, “there are plenty of places that say trailer storage available. I don’t know what they cost, I don’t own a trailer, it’s available.”

City Manager Greg Doyon said staff would draft the ordinance and bring it back to the commission for consideration.