GLADSTONE - Following months of discussion, an ordinance limiting where and for how long recreational vehicles can park in Gladstone was passed by the city commission Monday night.
The ordinance comes in response to numerous complaints of residents blocking traffic with recreational vehicles and people taking up summer residence in the vehicles parked on city streets.
A public forum was first held on the issue in January with a version of the ordinance being introduced in February. Residents voicing concerns about safety and property rights led to the ordinance being tabled twice, a second public forum, and the ordinance being sent to a subcommittee that included concerned residents.
The revised version of the ordinance that was approved Monday night did away with limits on how close recreational vehicles could be parked to buildings. In earlier versions of the ordinance these limits were in place to assist firefighters and limit damage in case of a structure fire. Residents with small lots raised concerns that their vehicles would not fit on their lots without being closer to buildings.
"We made a (safety) concession, and that was largely to accommodate some of the issues that were brought up by folks," said Renee Barron, Gladstone community development director and zoning administrator.
Under the ordinance, recreational vehicles must be parked five feet from any side or back property line. Vehicles can be parked in any established driveway, no matter how close to the property line, so long as vehicles are parked at least two feet away from sidewalks.
"Unless there's a very extreme situation, Public Safety's going to try to work with people and get the thing corrected instead of citing somebody," said Mayor Joe Maki.
Recreational vehicles may only be parked on streets for a maximum of 48 hours at a time for the purpose of loading and unloading. Guests can take up residence in recreational vehicles that are properly parked on private property for up to two weeks.
Residents still had concerns Monday over the effects of the ordinance.
"With so many houses for sale in this town do you think that this is going to prevent people from moving to this town with this ordinance if they camp or fish a lot?" said Eric Husbye, who stated that he would have to modify his property to store his boat under the ordinance.
Not all comments about the ordinance were critical.
"I've been privileged to be a part of the work on the RV ordinance that you just passed," said Jerry Barnhart. "Although there have not necessarily been large numbers of people standing at the podium saying, 'we are in favor of this,' I believe you've got file cabinets full of citizenry input in the not so distant past that it has been an issue for many of the average citizens."
Commissioners expressed that while the ordinance may make some people unhappy, putting the rules in writing give Public Safety the tools to address parking issues when they occur.
One resident said he believed many residents did not know that the ordinance was being considered. This raised concerns over public awareness for a special meeting being held next week to address funding city services in light of reduced state funding and stagnant tax revenue. The meeting is expected to be the first of several meetings that will explore additional funding through millages or cutting services.
"The meeting next week, we need to get as much participation from the public as possible because ... we just had an ordinance that's hit the paper multiple times and one of our city residents said, 'well, 70 percent or better of the people don't even know this is being talked about,'" said Commissioner Matt Gay.
"Living in a free society requires participation and we need to get people into this meeting, because I would venture to guess that about 90 percent of the people in this community have no idea why they're taxes are the way they are," he added.
The special meeting will take place Monday May 19 at 7 p.m. at city hall. Topics will include information about millage rates in the Upper Peninsula, Gladstone's millage rates, how that money is used by the city, and the future of funding.