City approves fines for RV parking; using COVID dollars to replenish some city funds

City Commissioners unanimously approved a new fine structure for violations of the new rules for parking recreational vehicles, utility tractors or boats in residential areas.

The new rules and fees went into effect March 15.

There was no public comment on the fees.

In October, the commission voted 4-1 to approve a new ordinance that prohibits the parking of those large vehicles in residential districts for more than 72 hours in a seven day period.

City Commission approves new RV, large vehicle parking rules

The new rules went into effect on March 15 and enforcement will be complaint driven, similar to several other code enforcement aspects of the city code, 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.

In the case of a violation, the new rules provide that a written notice will be provided that requires the removal of the vehicle within 24 hours and advises that a parking citation will be issued if it’s not removed.

City Attorney Jeff Hindoien said staff would not have the resources to write citations for RV parking violations daily.

“No one gets a ticket unless they don’t heed the warning that they have 24 hours to move the vehicle,” Hindoien said.

If violators fail to heed to warning and continually don’t move the RV or other large vehicle as required by the ordinance, there would be subsequent citations and potentially end up in Municipal Court.

When the commission approved the new rules, they included language that allows the commission to set any fines for those citations to be set by resolution. Commissioners approved those fines during their March 15 meeting.

RV parking ordinance proposal on Oct. 19 city agenda

The new fine structure is:

  • First citation: $50
  • Second citation: $100
  • Third or subsequent citation: $200

In their report, city staff provided comparisons of the fine structure for Butte-Silverbow and Helena.

Butte-Silverbow assesses a $150 fine for a first offense; and $250 for a second or subsequent offense.

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

According to the staff report, the fine range in Helena appears to be $25-$100.

Commissioners tackled the large vehicle parking rules after several people spoke at a public meeting about the negative impacts in their neighborhoods of allowing the large vehicles to park with limited enforcement. The city held a public hearing on the proposed ordinance in September 2020 and dozens of people provided comment for and against the changes.

Asked what would prevent neighbors from tattling on each other for non-violations, Great Falls Police Department Chief Jeff Newton said they investigate complaints to ensure they’re justified and there’s a warning before anyone would be cited.

Newton said most people would get more than 24 hours grace because they don’t have the staffing to follow up on every single complaint after 24 hours.

“This is intended to deal with stuff that’s just being left there and not being moved,” he said.

Mayor Bob Kelly said he’d noticed an exodus of people moving their large vehicles off residential streets.

He said that he thinks the fines are too low to serve as motivation but that most people will follow the rules.

Kelly said their will be some kinds in implementing the new rules.

“My phone rings with this problem more than any other problem in our community,” Kelly said of large vehicles parked on residential streets.

Commissioners also voted unanimously to use some of the city’s CARES Act funds to replenish funds lost due to COVID for the parking, Civic Center Events, Ice Breaker, recreation, multi-sports and swimming pools funds.

City planning to use some CARES Act funds to replenish revenue lost due to COVID

Commissioners approved the following: