In an effort designed to get derelict vehicles removed from city streets, the Bingen City Council has approved a wide-ranging new parking ordinance.
On Oct. 21, the council approved a new eight-page ordinance that amends Bingen's Municipal Code Chapter 10.14, which addresses "stopping, standing, or parking" within the city.
The council passed the ordinance with a 3-1 vote.
"We're hoping to clean up the right of way a bit, and to change the habits of people using the right of way for a personal storage area," explained Mayor Brian Prigel. "We're hoping to get neglected vehicles and trailers and that kind of thing out of the right of way. The biggest item is, you can't store RVs and boats in the street. That's the one that will cause the biggest pain for a few people."
Violators face a warning with a first offense. Fines ranging from $55 up to $150 could come after that. Repeated violations could lead to the offending vehicle being impounded.
"Upon the third or subsequent violation within a 60-day period ... the vehicle or property may, at the city's sole discretion ... be impounded," read an excerpt from the "penalties" section of the ordinance.
Items that are determined to be hazardous to public safety are subject to "immediate attention."
City Council member Jeanette Fentie said she was hopeful the new ordinance would have a positive impact on Bingen's appearance.
"We'll be able to clear up some of the cars in the street," Fentie said. "That was one of the primary reasons for the ordinance, to get rid of a lot of junk vehicles with no wheels or windshields broken out and such."
The ordinance defines a "junk vehicle" as "a vehicle that meets at least three of the following requirements: 1) is 3-years-old or older; 2) is extensively damaged, such damage including but not limited to any of the following: a broken window or windshield or missing wheels, tires, motor or transmission; 3) is apparently inoperable; 4) has a fair market equal only to the approximate value as scrap."
Campers, motor homes, and recreational vehicles can be parked on residential streets no longer than 14 days within a calendar year. A permit from Bingen City Hall will be required to park longer than 14 days. The registered owner of the vehicle in question can obtain a permit from the city at no cost.
Also under the amended ordinance, log trucks will not be allowed to park on residential streets.
Some other key provisions of the new ordinance include: "No person shall park or leave standing on any public right of way in any residential area of the city of Bingen a truck with a gross weight capacity (GVW) in excess of 30,000 pounds, or a tractor-trailer in excess of 20 feet in length; No boat, camper (off of a pickup), large vehicle, motor home, recreational vehicle, snowmobile, utility trailer, or neglected vehicle may be parked within a city right of way except for active loading or unloading."
The ordinance defines "neglected vehicle" as: "A vehicle that is not legally licensed and tagged or is apparently inoperable that has been left on the public right of way or on any public parking lot controlled by the city for a period of 72 hours or more."
Fentie said she reviewed ordinances from other cities, and most posted vehicle weights well below the 50,000 GVW originally proposed in the Bingen ordinance. Before the council voted to approve the new rules on Oct. 21, the consensus of the council was to reduce the GVW.
"Most other cities were at 20,000 or 25,000 GVW," Fentie explained. "I wasn't happy with 50,000. We compromised to 30,000, and I was happy with that. Anything over 30,000 tended to be pretty large."
Prigel said the City Council had been discussing changes to the parking ordinances for at least the past five months.
"We started discussing it in June, maybe even before that," he explained.
To allow citizens time to get familiar with the new rules, the ordinance will not take effect until Feb. 1, 2004.
"I think there will be an adjustment period," explained Prigel. "That's partly why we put the effective date out so far, to give them time to adjust. We'll be putting out a newsletter that explains the changes. But the bottom line is, we don't want stuff stored permanently in the right of way. That's not what streets are for."
"The primary thing is, is it going to be enforced?" Fentie said. "The law is in place now. If it's enforced, it should work."
In another significant change related to the new ordinance, South Ash Street will be turned into a one-way street going south (downhill). South Ash is a half-block stretch that connects State Route 14 to Depot Street. It will have angled parking on both sides, and will soon be striped to mark parking spots.
Prigel noted that South Ash is not in very good shape, and he would like to have it repaved.
"We'll look at the budget, but we'll probably repave it when we pave Depot Street," Prigel said.