What’s ailing motorhome owners these days? An outbreak of parking proposals, mainly. Among the festering issues …
Covina, California, residential parking
The Covina Planning Commission has produced several drafts of an ordinance that would restrict RV parking and storage in residential neighborhoods.
The latest proposal contains the following revisions to existing municipal code:
- No RV parking between the front lot line and the front building line of any residential lot. For corner lots that face streets or rights-of-way, this rule would apply to both the front and side yards.
- RVs must be parked or stored so that at least 3 feet of open access is preserved in all side yards on the lot.
- No overnight parking on residential streets, and no parking for longer than 30 minutes between 2:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m., except in the case of disaster.
- No residing in RVs in residential zones, except in the case of disaster.
- No connecting the RV to water, electric, or other utilities when parked in a residential zone.
- RVs must be parked or stored perpendicular to the front lot line.
- No RV may be parked under a detached canopy, tent, tarp, or similar structure. An RV may be parked inside a permitted garage and under permitted permanent carports.
- No RV may be parked or stored on any unpaved surface.
A citizens group called the Covina Residents/Rights Association has spoken against the proposed ordinance. In a letter to city staff, the association’s attorney conveys the group’s views on each of the proposed RV-related regulations.
“The Association feels that the city’s proposed RV ordinance is basically an almost complete ban of recreational vehicles in Covina and strongly opposes it,” the letter says.
The association disagrees with the ban on overnight parking and proposes that permits be granted for 1) up to three 14-day periods per year to accommodate friends and family visitors; and 2) up to seven days per trip so RV owners can prepare their vehicles before and after a trip.
The residents association asked that the ordinance be tabled until city officials could meet with their group to work out a full resolution.
Read the Covina Residents/Rights Association’s letter to City Council at www.fmca.com/motorhomerights/updates.
City Council, at its March 21 meeting, referred the ordinance back to the Planning Commission for further discussion and public input.
Covina is located in Los Angeles County, approximately 20 miles east of the city of Los Angeles.
Billings, Montana, overnight parking
City Council, on March 13, approved the first reading of an ordinance that would allow RV parking on commercial lots for up to 10 consecutive hours, provided it is permitted by the lot owners.
On February 21, an ad hoc RV committee recommended limiting parking to six hours. But council determined that six hours was too short and would not allow RVers enough time to rest before heading back on the road.
In summer 2004 local RV park operators complained about RV owners camping at the city’s two Wal-Mart parking lots. In response, the city started to enforce a 1967 “Parking for Camping Purposes” ordinance that bans RV camping anywhere except in licensed campgrounds. The unexpected enforcement ignited “boycott Billings” threats from the RVing community.
Last fall the city appointed the RV committee to examine the ordinance and suggest revisions.
Council was to consider the second/final reading of the ordinance at its March 27 meeting.
Huntington Beach on-street parking
Huntington Beach, California, is considering reducing the number of days RVs can be parked on city streets in residential districts.
In April 2005 City Council amended an existing ordinance to ban any RV more than 20 feet long from parking on residential streets. Free permits can be obtained from the police department for short-term parking such as for emergency repairs, loading/unloading, and medical reasons. The parking duration may not exceed 16 24-hour periods per month and no more than eight days consecutively.
Council passed the ordinance in response to complaints about the length of time oversize vehicles were parked in the same location on public streets. Residents claimed the RVs created safety hazards, were unsightly, and cluttered the streets.
RV supporters managed to persuade City Council to alter early drafts of the ordinance to increase the parking duration and loosen the conditions for issuing permits.
The council said it would review the ordinance’s effectiveness in one year.
Police Chief Ken Small met with Huntington Beach RV owners on February 27, 2006, seeking their opinions on proposed ordinance modifications, which include:
- reducing the number of permit days from 16 to 12 per month;
- reducing the consecutive days from eight to three;
- adding a provision stating that permit holders are not exempt from parking laws on street sweeping days.
According to Peter Petrelis, chairman of the Huntington Beach RV Owners Group, Chief Small reported that the existing ordinance has solved most of the enforcement problems. But the police department continues to receive complaints that a small percentage of RV owners are “pushing the limits” on the number of permit days, Mr. Petrelis said.
The RV owners group planned to meet in early March to review the proposed revisions. “The police chief has requested that we discuss these changes with the RV members in our group and then get back with him in a couple of weeks,” Mr. Petrelis said.
The traffic division and police chief intended to submit the proposed changes to City Council in April 2006.
Torrance, California, on-street parking
A proposed ordinance that would restrict on-street parking of RVs was still in the works in late March.
Torrance City Council, at its March 28 meeting, appointed a committee to work with city staff on drafting an ordinance to present to council at a later date.
During various workshops and public meetings, city officials have considered many aspects of an ordinance, including:
- “Grandfathering” of RVs bought before the end of the year, meaning those owners would be exempt from new regulations.
- Requiring daily permits for RVs bought after 2006.
- A permit system to weed out inactive RVs registered to owners who live outside the city.
- Time restrictions, in addition to the California Vehicle Code 72-hour rule, for parking of oversize vehicles on a public street.
The city is also looking for local sites that could be used for RV storage.
Torrance, a city of about 147,405 people, is located midway between Los Angeles and Orange counties.
Cape Coral, Florida, RV parking
A proposed ordinance that would have allowed residents to park their RVs on their property, if screened from view, was withdrawn during a public hearing March 6.
Councilman Mickey Rosado, who introduced the ordinance in February, said many issues still needed to be addressed.
Existing city code prohibits RV parking on residential property, unless the vehicle is parked in a garage or carport. Residents may obtain a temporary permit to park for three days before and three days after a trip.
The proposed ordinance would have allowed an RV to park in a side yard or rear yard if the vehicle were fenced from view from the street and neighboring properties.
The fence could be made of brick, wood, vinyl, or concrete block and stucco and must be 6 feet high. The RV would be permitted to extend above the screen. A house could be used as one wall if the RV is parked next to it.
The new ordinance also would have extended the time residents are allowed to park in their driveway while loading and unloading the RV. The period would have been increased from three days to five days, with a free permit needed for the five-day span.
According to The News-Press out of Fort Myers, concerns raised during the public hearing included:
- the practicality of requiring fences in a hurricane zone;
- the possibility of a fire between houses in an RV filled with gas;
- the equal treatment of boaters and RV owners.
Under existing code, boaters are permitted to park their boat and trailer in their backyard, whereas RVers must find off-site storage unless they can park their RV in a garage or carport. The proposal would have required boat owners to meet the screening requirements.
Cape Coral is located in Lee County in southwest Florida, just west of Fort Myers.
Fort Morgan, Colorado, on-street parking
City Council, at its February 21 meeting, enacted an ordinance that extends from 24 to 72 hours the time RVs (and other specified vehicles) can be parked on city streets.
The ordinance stipulates that moving the vehicle a short distance or driving it around the block does not start another 72-hour period. And the RV may not be used for dwelling or sleeping purposes while parked.
The ordinance also prohibits RVs from parking in a manner that impedes visibility of pedestrian or vehicular traffic.
Fort Morgan is located 80 miles northeast of Denver.
Richardson, Texas, RV parking
In mid-January, the city of Richardson, Texas, and three residents reached a settlement over an RV parking ordinance.
Ordinance 3473 bans long-term parking of RVs, including motorhomes, from the front of residential-zoned property. Vehicles parked beside or behind homes must be screened from street view.
As part of the settlement, the city agreed to refrain from enforcing the regulations until July 1, 2007. Until then, residents may continue to park in front driveways or without having to put up screening. Thereafter, violators face fines up to $2,000.
“Terms of the settlement were not what we had hoped for,” said Lou Boudreaux, who filed the lawsuit with Robert J. Rice and John Nelson. “We accepted this settlement offer based on the recommendations of our attorney and after deliberate consideration of the alternative of trial and subsequent appeals.”
The plaintiffs wanted an exemption for those who bought their vehicles before the ordinance was enacted. No one will be exempt from the regulations, Mr. Boudreaux said, but the moratorium on enforcement will give residents more time to comply.
Richardson City Council passed the ordinance in July 2004 in response to public concerns that parked RVs devalue property and threaten public safety. The ordinance took effect in February 2005.
The plaintiffs filed the lawsuit in October 2004, claiming the ordinance would restrict property owners’ rights. The case was scheduled to go to trial in the 191st District Court on January 17, 2006. The parking regulations were not being enforced, pending the trial’s outcome.
According to the ordinance, an RV may be parked in the side yard or rear yard of homes if screened from the view of the adjacent street. Forms of accepted screening include a wood fence at least 6 feet high or landscaping walls consisting of shrubs approved by the city. The plants must “provide a continuous unbroken solid visual screen which at maturity will reach a height of 6 feet or the height of the RV, whichever is greater.”
The ordinance allows temporary RV parking on an owner’s property for loading and unloading, up to four times per year, not to exceed seven consecutive days. It limits on-street parking to two weeks, with a permit.
Maryland driver’s license requirements
House Bill 1585 was introduced in the Maryland General Assembly in February. The bill would exempt motorhomers from the requirements of a Class B noncommercial driver’s license.
A public hearing was scheduled for March 20 at the State House in Annapolis.
Maryland law requires drivers whose vehicles weigh more than 26,000 pounds to have a valid Class B noncommercial license. To obtain the license, applicants must pass a written test and a skill maneuvers test that includes parallel parking and backing up.
Several FMCA members in Maryland informed FMCA in January that Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) branches were starting to enforce this license requirement.
The law has been in effect for years but has been overlooked, Diane Krepke, an examiner at Maryland MVA headquarters, told FMCA. “I would advise all your members … if a trooper would pull you over, you’d better have that Class B noncommercial license.”
A Class B noncommercial license authorizes the licensee to drive any single vehicle or combination of vehicles with a gross vehicle weight or gross combination weight of 26,001 pounds or more.
The Class C noncommercial license, held by most drivers of passenger vehicles, authorizes the licensee to drive any vehicle or vehicle combination up to 26,000 pounds.
Driving with an improper class of license is a misdemeanor that can result in a fine of up to $500 and two points assessed against the violator’s driving record.
According to the Code of Maryland Regulations, motorhomes are registered as Class M (multipurpose) vehicles. The type of license required, however, is based on a vehicle’s weight, not its registration classification.
Joyce Mallon, section manager of the CDL Unit, Driver Services Division, said the MVA is addressing the issue to ensure that all branch offices are providing its customers with correct information.
HB 1585 is sponsored by Reps. Joseph Bartlett, Patrick N. Hogan, Susan W. Krebs, and Paul S. Stull. Max Durbin, F76454, chair of FMCA’s Governmental and Legislative Advisory Committee, encourages motorhomers who live in Maryland to contact their state representatives and ask them to support HB 1585.
“We recognize that quite a few of our Maryland members do not own a heavy motorhome,” Mr. Durbin said. “But if the state is successful in dusting off this older statute with the resulting testing of our members who own such coaches, it won’t be long before others will be facing such an imposition elsewhere.”
To obtain the Class B noncommercial license, the applicants first must obtain a Class B learner’s permit ($30) by passing a written test covering the rules of the road.
They must hold the learner’s permit for at least two weeks, said MVA examiner Krepke, but in the meantime they may set up an appointment to take a three-part skills test. The skills test includes a pretrip inspection, a basic skills test, and a public road test.
FMCA’s Durbin said the skills testing, given the nature of how a motorhome is constructed and used, is not relevant to the motorhome community.
For more information about Class B noncommercial licenses and testing, contact Maryland MVA headquarters at (410) 424-3011; e-mail: MVACS@mdot.state.md.us.
Idaho RV license fee
The proposed ballot initiative to reduce the state’s annual RV license fee has been withdrawn. On January 26, Marse Shobe, F313485, from Sandpoint, asked the Secretary of State’s Election Division to cancel the petition drive.
“We did very well on signatures, and have the support of thousands of Idahoans,” Mr. Shobe said, “but we need more signatures, and there’s not enough time to get it all done with the deadline looming just ahead.”
Mr. Shobe and supporters needed 50,000 signatures by April 2006 to place the fee reduction proposal on the November 2006 general election ballot.
Idaho RV owners pay an annual license fee of $8.50 for an RV with a market value of $1,000 or less, and an additional $5 for each additional $1,000 in value. This fee is in addition to the regular motor vehicle registration fees. The initiative sought a reduction in the $5 fee to $1.
Alabama ad valorem tax
The Alabama Legislature is considering a bill that would reduce the ad valorem tax on RVs.
Senate Bill 10 proposes a constitutional amendment relating to the classifications of property for ad valorem tax purposes. Currently RVs fall into Class II “” “All property not otherwise classified” “” and are taxed at the 20 percent rate.
The bill proposes that RVs be placed in Class IV along with all private passenger automobiles, which are taxed at 15 percent.
Alabama law requires that a referendum on any tax issue be conducted. So, if the bill passes in the legislature, the electors would vote to adopt it or reject it.
SB 10 was sent to the Senate Constitution, Campaign Finance, Ethics, and Elections Committee on January 10.
RV Friendly signs
In February the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) approved the use of the RV Friendly symbol on highway information signs. The Alabama and Mississippi state legislatures, respectively, were considering RV Friendly legislation.
Michigan is the seventh state to adopt the RV Friendly initiative, joining Oregon, Louisiana, Tennessee, Washington, Florida, and Texas.
To qualify as RV Friendly in Michigan, participating businesses must meet minimum guidelines established by MDOT. Requirements include large parking spaces, entrances and exits that can easily accommodate an RV, and appropriate overhang clearances.
Alabama HB 143 and Mississippi SB 2431 were pending in committee in January.