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No more parking in front yards

Repeat offenders could face jail time if council approves

News editor

Marion city council doesn’t consider parked cars to be suitable lawn ornaments, and took the first step Monday toward banning parking vehicles in front yards.

City administrator Roger Holter said police have no power to have cars parked in front yards removed, even though the city has received numerous complaints.

“The only enforcement we have is if we observe somebody driving over a curb,” Holter said.

To resolve that issue, Holter proposed an ordinance that would levy increasing penalties for parking in front yards. Houses on corners would be considered to have two front yards, one for each side facing a street.

First offenders would be fined $100 plus court costs. A second offense in the same year would be $200, and a third violation in the same year could put an offender in jail for up to three days, with a $300 fine.

The same penalties would apply to anyone who parks or drives a car on sidewalk handicap access ramps.

Council member Melissa Mermis expressed concern some people might try to circumvent the restrictions.

“What if someone were to put out rocks and says, ‘That’s my driveway,’” she said. “I know we talked about something having to do with you can’t just throw gravel down for a driveway.”

Holter said the ordinance specifies cars must be parked on a solid surface, which would include compacted gravel, but the space would have to comply with zoning regulations for driveways.

“What about currently, where I can think of a couple of people where they have their shop on a corner lot and there’s not per se a hard surface to drive up onto,” council member Chad Adkins said. “Are they going to be mandated to pour some kind of concrete to make it legal to pull into their shop?”

City attorney Susan Robson said parking in front of the shop, if it was on a front lawn, would be a violation, but driving into the shop would not.

Adkins and Mayor Todd Heitschmidt suggested restricting front yard parking could lead to back yards being used as alternatives for vehicles and trailers.

“We’re not looking to address anything on the back yards right now,” Holter said. “We’re really trying to address, yes, part of the aesthetics issue, but safety issues for residents.”

Obstructed views of traffic created by cars, trailers, or recreational vehicles parked in yards could pose a danger to children who might dart into the street while playing, Holter said.

Heitschmidt instructed Holter to review the proposed ordinance for consistency with existing city codes, and to bring it to the next council meeting for additional consideration.

In other business:

  • Holter presented a request from Spur Ridge Veterinary Clinic owner Brendan Kraus for a “right of first offer” for possible future purchase of a vacant half lot adjacent to the north side of his industrial park location. Under the agreement, should someone else want to purchase the property, Kraus would be given the opportunity to buy it first. Council authorized Holter to negotiate such an agreement, with a provision that the city receive an annual payment at least equal to the minimum property tax assessment for the lot.
  • Heitschmidt appointed Roger Schroder and Marlin Buchholz to fill vacancies on the board of zoning appeals, John Wheeler and Jeremy Ensey to three-year terms for planning and zoning commission, and Alex Hines to a parks and recreation board vacancy.

Last modified Jan. 7, 2016

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