Recreational vehicle owners in Buellton will face greater restrictions on where they can park them on their own property if the City Council approves an ordinance it asked staff to draft.
“I truly believe that this is a beautiful little town and that it should be kept beautiful, and I don’t think when we see a boat or a trailer on somebody’s front lawn that that adds to the aesthetics of our beautiful city,” Councilwoman Holly Sierra said as the council took up the issue of RV parking on residential property at its Oct. 27 meeting.
By consensus, the council directed City Manager Marc Bierdzinski to bring back an ordinance aimed at preventing residents from parking RVs, travel trailers and boats almost anywhere in their front yards, as city statutes currently allow.
As proposed, the ordinance would allow only one such vehicle to be parked in the back yard and one in the front, with the assumption the one in the back would be at least partially screened from view by fencing.
The one in the front could only be parked on a concrete pad connected to the driveway on the “short side” of the lot and would have to be 10 feet from the front setback.
Such vehicles could not be parked in the driveway itself, blocking access to the garage.
The council previously asked to have a discussion of RV parking placed on a meeting agenda after hearing complaints from residents about the appearance created by a motorhome parked on a corner lot that actually meets the current Municipal Code requirements.
Those ordinances, approved by the then-City Council in 2007 and 2008, allow RVs to be parked in a front or side yard on a paved surface of asphalt, concrete, turf block or pavers, although a compacted gravel surface may be allowed if approved by the planning director.
The vehicle also has to be at least three feet from the main building and five feet from the front property line, can’t extend into the public sidewalk or street and can’t be parked on dirt or turf.
But some residents believe enforcement has become lax and some RV owners have found ways to skirt the law.
“There’s been a lot of discussion recently regarding some going up in certain neighborhoods, so the council asked for a discussion (of) whether they want to change the ordinance and direct staff accordingly,” Bierdzinski said.
His report to the council included a list of the RV parking standards in Santa Barbara, Solvang, Carpinteria, San Luis Obispo, Arroyo Grande, Goleta and Pismo Beach.
Their ordinances ranged from a ban on parking RVs in front yards but allowing them in side yards behind a six-foot fence in Solvang to allowing them anywhere on a lot if they’re on a pad or driveway and five feet from any building in Arroyo Grande.
Three of the residents who raised the issue told the council they were shocked when they saw the resident pouring a pad on his corner lot to park his RV, and they weren’t happy when code enforcement officers visited the site and found it in compliance with city ordinances.
“How can we remedy this, because this is not OK,” said Terry Westfall. “And it’s not OK just for us; it’s not OK for the city of Buellton.”
Mayor Ed Andrisek favored Solvang’s approach of screening RVs in a side or back yard with a six-foot fence.
“I don’t think we need to completely hide it,” he said.
Sierra also liked that idea and was willing to compromise by allowing parking in a driveway if the RV is covered.
“I don’t think we should allow residents to park recreational vehicles wherever they want,” she said.
But Vice Mayor Dan Baumann said he was less inclined to compromise, having seen covers deteriorate.
“It’s too bad it has to be almost one size fits all,” Baumann said. “The options we have here are to try to do the greater good for everybody.”
Councilman Leo Elovitz said he wanted to see RV parking allowed only on a driveway or paved area contiguous to a driveway, and Councilman John Connolly preferred to allow RV parking only in the back yard.
They finally compromised on the directions given to Bierdzinski, who said he would bring a draft ordinance to the council around the first of the year.
Elovitz said he would like to see some kind of grace period for residents who have been doing their best to comply with the current ordinance, and Bierdzinski said the city would send letters to those with RVs on their property giving them 60 days to find proper storage.
Andrisek added that the size of a lot should be considered.
“It’s not unusual to have half-acre (lots) in Thumbelina,” he said. “There’s good reason for people with a half-acre to have a little more leniency.”