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        Oregon is looking at an amendment to the zoning code that gives police the authority to enforce a parking ban on unpaved portions of the front lawns of residentially zoned property.

        Currently, the zoning code prohibits parking of vehicles on unpaved areas of a front lawn.

        The code states that “No person shall park or stand, or leave unattended, or cause to leave parked or unattended, a vehicle, motorcycle, boat, recreational vehicle, or vehicle of any kind within a front yard except on paved or gravel surfaces on any residential property or vacant lot.”

        Due to the notice requirements and time parameters to take corrective action under the zoning code, the primary thrust of the amendment would be to broaden the authority of the Oregon Police Division to enforce the parking ban.

        “This is something that can be enforced in the zoning code, but it also allows police to enforce parking in Oregon that is not on gravel or a paved surface,” said City Administrator Mike Beazley. “Clean and simple. Police would have that authority.”

        Although the amendment would essentially give police the authority to ticket cars that are parked on dirt or grass, police can exercise discretion whether or not to do so, he added. He compared it to the police using discretion to ticket a motorist going 37 mph in a 35 mph speed limit zone.

        “They don’t have to give me a ticket,” he said.

       

Party or event

        Police would have the flexibility to allow parking on grass if there is a party or event at the address, said Beazley.

        “If there’s an event, they’ll have the discretion to move beyond that. We could even include a reference in the code to parties and events, implying flexibility. Same way the Ohio Revised Code prohibits gambling, but it’s not against the law to have a World Series pool, or NCAA brackets, or March Madness.”

        There could also be separate instances when a gravel surface isn’t properly grandfathered, he added.

        “Right now, I’m not allowed to go out and gravel my front yard because the law requires that it be a dust free surface. The exception to that is if my yard was graveled before that change in the law a number of years ago. The zoning department has records on that. We’re not going to ask the police to go out and make judgments like that. If it’s on a gravel or paved surface, they’re not going to get a ticket. If on dirt or grass, then the police would have the right to ticket. If there’s a question about grandfathering, then the zoning department would deal with that and cite them.”

       

Combat blight

        The objective of the proposed amendment to the zoning code is to make it easier for the city to respond and enforce violations to combat blight to a neighborhood and to help ensure the maintenance of property values.

        “It’s one of those things we decided to deal with separate from the property maintenance code,” said Beazley.

        The city is currently discussing the desire for a property maintenance code, though Beazley said it is a work in progress and may take months to finalize.

        “Next week, we’ll be getting an updated version of the property maintenance code that is much slimmed down compared to the last one that members were presented with. It’s a good starting point. But this is an issue that we are dealing with separately. We want to deal with it in the clearest way we could. Our law director came up with what I think is a good plan,” said Beazley.

        Councilman Tim Zale asked how the law would be enforced.

        “The enforcement instrument on this, since this is in the parking code, would it just basically be putting a parking ticket on the car, or is it reserved as a summons?” he asked Law Director Melissa Purpura.

        “It would be a parking ticket that would be put on the car,” she said. “They would run the plate, find out who the registered owner is, then ticket the car.”

       

Discretion

        Zale, a retired Oregon police officer, said he liked what the ordinance stands for, but still had an issue with police using discretion.

        “I’m still bothered by the fact that we’re going to overlook people who have gatherings or parties,” said Zale. “I don’t know how you’re going to overlook that without some kind of mention of that within the ordinance itself because I don’t know how we define that. You’ll run into more residents who want to park two cars in their front yards, and they’ll always maintain they have a function going on in their houses. The ordinance does not allow it, whether they have a gathering or legitimate function. So I don’t know how you work around it.”

        “Among the things we anticipated was presenting this tonight, getting a reaction, and doing another tweak based on that feedback by the next meeting,” said Beazley. “There are a lot of places in a municipal code where police are expected to exercise their discretion. The concern is, are we always going to have the judgment and the team that we trust to exercise that discretion? Those are the questions we have.”

        Council President Dennis Walendzak referred the proposed amendment to the next council meeting for further discussion.

       

       

       

       

       

        

 

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