City Commission delays vote on proposed RV, large vehicle parking ordinance change

City  Commissioners voted unanimously to postpone a decision on the proposed RV/large vehicle parking ordinance until their second meeting in October.

After hearing more than an hour of public comment on the proposal during their Sept. 7 meeting, Commissioner Rick Tryon moved to delay the vote.

He said he wanted to postpone the vote since the Sept. 7 meeting was over Zoom due to a majority of the commission’s concern over rising COVID-19 cases and he felt that people should have the option to participate in person.

RV, large vehicle parking rule on Sept. 7 City Commission agenda

Tryon said he also wanted to do more work on the ordinance and wanted to see some changes to the proposal.

City staff first discussed the draft with commissioners during a July work session and the draft ordinance went before commissioners for a first reading during their Aug. 17 meeting.

The proposed ordinance includes a 36-hour limit for parking RVs on city streets for the purposes of loading and unloading.

During that meeting, Tryon said he was concerned about that time limit and the complaint driven enforcement mechanism. He said then that he wouldn’t vote for the ordinance as written.

Code changes for RV, trailer parking on Aug. 17 agenda for initial review, public hearing on Sept. 7

Staff said that only Commissioner Mary Moe sent feedback to the city legal department about potential changes and procedurally how to address them at a second reading.

During the Sept. 7 meeting, Tryon said he might prefer a 72 hour time limit, which is the current code limit.

Earlier this summer, residents came to a commission meeting to raise concern about a particular RV parked on a residential street on the north end of town. At that meeting, commissioners directed staff to address the issue.

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.

City considering changes to RV, trailer parking on residential streets

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.

The current proposed ordinance contains the following elements:

  • New definitions for a class of vehicles designated as “recreational vehicle,” “utility trailer” and “vessel;”
  • A new provision that only allows such vehicles to be temporarily parked in a residential district for the limited purpose of loading and unloading, with that “temporary” period being no more than 36 hours in any 7 day period;
  • A provision requiring a written 24-hour notice to remove prior to the issuance of any parking citation; and
  • Provisions incorporating the new parking restriction into the standard parking enforcement framework of Title 10, i.e., enforcement of unpaid citations, the potential for immobilization of a vehicle in the event of multiple unpaid citations and the potential for enforcement of unpaid citations in Municipal Court.

As with other parking violations under Title 10 of city code, actual fine amounts for violations of the proposed ordinance would be set by Commission resolution, which includes a public hearing process.

Several residents expressed concern about a complaint driven enforcement process.

Most code enforcement issues are already complaint driven, to include the existing process for junk and abandoned vehicles; large vehicle parking violations; all property maintenance code violations; barking dogs; noise complaints and more.

Complaints drive GFPD’s abandoned vehicle investigation process

Great Falls Police Chief Jeff Newton said that enforcement of the proposed ordinance could be a strain on his department’s resources.

Montana Code Annotated 61-8-356 states: “no vehicle shall be parked or left standing upon the right of way of any pubic highway for a period longer than 48 hours, or upon a city street or any state, county or city property for a period longer than five days.”

That rule also applies to recreational vehicles and boats.

It is not illegal to park RVs on city streets but they must be moved every 72 hours.

Under current city code, people cannot live in RVS on city streets.

Tryon said he was generally in favor of the ordinance but wanted some changes.

Commissioner Owen Robinson said he was in favor of the proposed ordinance and Commissioner Mary Moe said she’d had more residents contacting her asking the commission to address the issue than anything else in her time as a commissioner.

Mayor Bob Kelly said there were safety concerns with RVs and large vehicles parked on residential streets.

About two dozen residents spoke in opposition to the proposed ordinance during the Sept. 7 meeting.

Several said they were opposed due to the cost of having to store their RVs or other large vehicles, or constructing a parking pad on their property.

Some said it was discriminatory to restrict the large vehicles from parking on the streets.

Jeff Hindoien, deputy city attorney, told commissioners that Butte and Bozeman have codes restricting RV and large vehicle parking on city streets.

Brian Kelly said the proposal was a “complete nonstarter.”

Jim Thompson said he’s opposed and has a trailer and boat he parks on the street.

As a taxpayer, “I think I deserve to use the street as my own personal storage. I don’t understand why other people need access to the street in front of my house,” he told commissioners during the Sept. 8 meeting.