GLADSTONE - After much discussion, the Gladstone City Commission decided to once again table a proposed ordinance on parking recreational vehicles in the city.
"I'm not prepared right now to vote on this tonight. I wouldn't have a problem with some modification recommendations with the committee, with some additional input from members of the public," said Commissioner Matt Gay.
The proposed ordinance was created in response to complaints that recreational vehicles parked on city streets were blocking traffic and creating unsafe or unsightly conditions. It was also noted in complaints that individuals are sometimes using recreational vehicles as temporary housing on city streets for weeks or months at a time.
This is not the first time the city has acknowledged the issue. In 2008 the city addressed similar complaints, but action was not taken until this year when new complaints from residents prompted a public forum on Jan. 27. On Feb. 10 the ordinance was introduced and a public hearing was scheduled for March 10.
Dozens of concerned residents attended the public hearing. Following resident input, the commission tabled the proposed ordinance until Monday night's meeting. The move was to allow staff to contact the city's insurance company to determine if a city-owned parking area for resident's vehicles could be designated.
However, absent commissioners, community members continuing to express concern, and a desire to gather more information led the commission to table the vote once again Monday night.
"I think we need to give our citizens an alternative. I think we need to - and I know the risk manager said that it had some concerns," said Commissioner Dave Nemacheck of creating a city-owned parking area for recreational vehicles.
It was the opinion of the Michigan Municipal Risk Management Authority (MMRMA) that creating a designated parking area could pose a liability to the city. A lawsuit could be filed against the city if the personal property stored at the site was damaged - regardless of whether or not a waiver was signed by the resident.
"I'm sure you can find more than one attorney that will tell you you can never waive your right to sue somebody," said Mayor Joe Maki.
MMRMA also noted monitoring a designated parking area would require time from city employees and additional use of the area would increase the city's public liability exposure.
Despite the issues raised by the MMRMA, the commission decided to pursue evaluating the city-owned parking space for residents who may be unable to comply with the new ordinance.
"For decades we have allowed people to park on the streets. A lot of those units were purchased knowing that they could park them on the streets, and we need to give our citizens an alternative," said Nemacheck.
One concern raised during the meeting was language in the ordinance states recreational vehicles may not be placed closer than six feet from an occupied building, eight feet from a property line or public sidewalk, or seven feet from a front lot line without a sidewalk. These restrictions may prevent some residents with small lots from parking their larger recreational vehicles on their property.
"I'm not interested in what they can and cannot do on their own property," said Gay. "I am, however, interested in making sure that in event of emergency we have access for fire, police, and I am interested in ensuring our public roadways stay safe and operate as intended."
The commission tabled the proposed ordinance until the April 28 meeting, when all commissioners are expected to be present. Prior to that meeting, the committee responsible for the ordinance was instructed to have a public forum and return to the commission with modification recommendations for the ordinance. More information about the public parking area will also be brought before the commission.
Dates for the forum and committee meeting have not been set.