Danedri Thompson
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Gardner officials will consider making changes to the city code governing the parking of boats and recreational vehicles. City council asked staff to reexamine the codes after a number of residents spoke during council open session seeking exceptions to existing boat parking codes.
Clayton Westgate, Gardner, said he recently received a letter in the mail and a visit from a code inspector telling him he was violating city code by parking his boat in his driveway.
“I asked for the reasoning for not being able to park my boat in my own driveway,” Westgate said. “I was told it was an eye sore… I question how a boat can be more of an eye sore than the numerous dilapidated buildings and homes in the town.”
City code requires that boats and RVs can be stored in a side yard, a back yard or in a garage – but not in a driveway. The code does not designate required property line setbacks or require pavement for side yard storage.
Of 780 code enforcement cases opened in 2014, more than 300 of them related to the storage and parking of RVs, large boats and trailers in residential driveways. City council revisited the boat, RV and trailer code in December last year. Council members agreed to allow for the parking of trailers in driveways as long as they do not impede the sidewalk. They stopped short of easing boat and RV restrictions, which allow the items to be parked in a driveway for up to 48 hours every 30 days for loading and unloading.
Westgate said fishing and boating are expensive hobbies.
“It’s also noteworthy that 6 of 10 Kansans fish at least as a hobby,” Westgate told council members. “(The boat code) could potentially affect a large number of homeowners. I know several people that live in other cities because of this ordinance.”
Westgate was one of several members of the public who approached the podium requesting an ordinance change or an exception to be allowed to park their boats or RVs in their driveways.
“There has to be some kind of concession to allow people to keep their boats at their homes,” Ryan Klosterman, Gardner, said.
Some of the citizens suggested exceptions for people who use their boats or RVs in business ventures, or if their yards didn’t have enough space to allow side or backyard storage.
Though outnumbered at the Sept. 21 meeting, one resident spoke against making the city boat and RV parking codes less restrictive.
“Personally, I think the ordinance is fine the way it is,” Adam Cox, Gardner, said. “It’s effective. It works well.”
Cox said he worried that loosening the restrictions may drive down property values. He also said making a list of exceptions makes city code enforcement more difficult.
Council member Kristina Harrison said she wasn’t interested in amending the policy to make exceptions.
“I don’t think we should focus on an exception policy,” Harrison said. “Either we’re going to allow it or we’re not.”
Harrison said the staff-driven process to revamp codes would also allow citizens other opportunities to address council about boat and RV storage. When it was discussed last year, several property owners spoke against loosening code restrictions.
“I know we’re talking about moving forward with this. There are people that like (the policy) the way it is,” Harrison said. “We’re asking staff to direct it, but this will also give people who have concerns the chance to speak publicly.”
Staff did not say how soon potential changes to the ordinance would be brought before council.