Buellton poised to limit RV parking

Buellton residents who park recreational vehicles — which includes travel trailers and boats — on their property may have to find a new place to store them or make sure they meet the standards set forth in an amended ordinance the City Council is expected to adopt at the regular meeting Thursday, Feb. 9.

If approved, the amendments will establish the number of RVs residents can park on their property as well as where they can be located, and residents will have six months to comply with the new regulations

After changing one specific element at their last meeting, council members approved a first reading of the ordinance on a 4-1 vote, with Ed Andrisek dissenting, and it will return for final adoption at the meeting set for 6 p.m. in the City Council Chambers at 140 W. Highway 246.

Under the proposed ordinance, residents will be limited to parking two RVs, trailers or boats on their property within the city limits.

Bothj can be stored virtually anywhere in the side or rear yards provided they are screened from view by a 6-foot-high fence.

One may be stored in the front yard provided the location meets the restrictions set forth by the ordinance.

If a home has a three-car garage with a full-width paved driveway, the vehicle can be parked on the paving in front of the third-car garage provided it does not encroach on the public right of way.

It can also be parked on a paved extension to an existing driveway on the “short side” of the lot provided there is a 2 ½-foot setback from the front and side property lines.

Tighter RV parking regulations are the result of complaints that surfaced last year from residents who said a neighbor had parked a large RV at the front of a corner lot, creating an eyesore, even though the location meet the requirements of the city’s existing ordinance.

In a report to the council at its Jan. 26 meeting, City Manager Marc Bierdzinski said the goal of the revised ordinance is to improve the appearance and enhance the safety of the city’s residential neighborhoods.

“The amendments are to the nuisance regulations of the code, so we want to make sure the items are parked in an orderly manner that preserves the neighborhood aesthetics and the public health, safety and welfare to the greatest extent possible while still allowing property owners to continue to park or store recreational vehicles, trailers and boats at their private residences,” Bierdzinski said.

But some RV owners were not happy with the proposed ordinance, which initially specified a 5-foot setback from front and side yards for the driveway extension.

Lee Owens said he had poured a special pad for his trailer, but he didn’t believe it would meet the setback requirements.

“I think I keep the trailer really nice. It looks good to the community,” he said.

Amy Wolfslau said the new regulations would be a financial burden for many residents.

“To now require people to store their trailers, RVs, etc., in back yards, many that aren’t built to accommodate the storage required, means that many of your citizens will have to store their vehicles in storage facilities,” she told the council.

“For some of you, an extra 100 or 200 (dollars) more a month is not a burden,” she said. “However, for many people, especially those on fixed incomes, this financial burden is unfeasible.”

She asked council members to consider grandfathering in RVs that were parked in compliance with the existing ordinance.

Council members had mixed feelings about the ordinance, too.

Dan Baumann said in writing an ordinance, the city had to treat everyone equally, and there might be some RVs not parked in compliance with the city regulations but parked in a way that doesn’t distract from the neighborhood.

John Connolly pointed out that others might be parked in compliance but look sloppy.

“I’m not a big fan of dictating,” said Foster Reif. “I’m kind of torn with the city dictatinv what people should do on their own property.”

Ed Andrisek said he was on the council when the existing ordinance was crafted, and he favored adding a grandfather clause for all those abiding by what the council had put in place.

But Bierdzinski said the staff wasn’t in favor of grandfathering, which he said would result in a lot of staff time being spent documenting all the RVs parked in the city. Currently, there are about 60, he said.

“We would be grandfathering in our problems,” added Baumann.

Andrisek pointed out the city owns a lot of property and suggested setting up a site where people could store their RVs on one of those, but the idea went nowhere, even though Mayor Holly Sierra said she had contacted all the storage companies in town, and there was no RV storage spaces available.

She suggested having the staff work with developers to encourage them to build a storage facility.

She also suggested granting exemptions for RVs that didn’t meet the ordinance requirements but weren’t a nuisance, but that didn’t gain support from the council or staff, either.

Sierra then suggested reducing the setback from 5 to 2½ feet for the extended parking pad, and that drew the support of all but Andrisek, who questioned the idea of a revised ordinance.

He said the current ordinance was passed nine years ago, and questions about it had only come up in the last six months. He also said the city had not conducted any workshops about it.

“It doesn’t seem we’ve heard overwhelming support (for the new ordinance),” he said. “I’ve heard more negatives than positives.”

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