The city of Coon Rapids will be cracking down on overnight parking in commercial and office districts.
An ordinance was adopted by the Coon Rapids City Council Dec. 18 that would prohibit the parking of semi-trucks, a vehicle in excess of 26,000 pounds, recreational vehicles (RVs) and trailers in commercial or office zoning districts between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.
But the ordinance was not the same at that originally presented to the council. When the council considered it for adoption Nov. 7, the ordinance was tabled for some changes to be made.
According to Community Development Director Marc Nevinski, for the past several years, there has been an increasing amount of semi-truck parking in public areas of commercially zoned retail and business districts.
Both councilmembers and residents have raised concerns over this, particularly when multiple trucks are parked overnight for days at a time, Nevinski wrote in a memo to the council.
“Such parking creates aesthetic and public safety concerns,” he said.
“Despite trying to work with property owners to address this concern, the problem persists.”
The zoning code bans parking of semi trucks in undesignated areas, but it is difficult to enforce this code provision for a number of reasons, Nevinski said.
According to Nevinski, these include:
• Non-business hours or days the violations tend to occur make it impracticable for code enforcement staff to address.
• The sporadic occurrence and vehicular nature of the violations make enforcing a land use code difficult.
• The land use code does not fit well with the ticketing procedures of the police or community service officers.
• Property owners have expressed a concern that they will be cited for an activity over which they have little control.
“It is difficult to cite a property owner and require compliance for a violation which is self-correcting,” Nevinski said.
The ordinance prohibits the overnight parking and will be enforced primarily through the traffic and transportation section of city code, not land use.
According to Nevinski, the ordinance clearly authorizes the ticketing of vehicles parked overnight by the police department.
The offense would be a misdemeanor and require a court appearance, Nevinski wrote in his report to the council.
“The ordinance also allows the property owner to be prosecuted or cited if they are given notice that a vehicle has been ticketed for parking outside of designated zones and a subsequent violation occurs within one year of the notice,” he wrote.
The ordinance provides for the citation of the driver first, but if the violation continues, then the property owner could be cited or prosecuted, according to Nevinski.
“Staff would anticipate that such an action would occur only if a property owner failed to take adequate or effective action following notice,” Nevinski wrote.
Under the ordinance, trucks would be allowed to queue for loading and unloading for up to four hours.
Council modifications to the ordinance included:
• Property owners cannot be cited administratively unless a third ticket has been issued to a vehicle (changed from a second ticket).
• Notice of two prior tickets issued to vehicles on the property must be given to the property owner (changed from one ticket).
• The “look-back window” for citing a property owner is reduced from 12 to six months.
In addition, at the direction of the council, Nevinski said staff developed administrative guidelines for enforcing the ordinance when it comes to property owners in terms of actions they should be taking and citations.
Councilmember Denise Klint, whose ward includes the Riverdale retail area, said that overnight parking has been a long-time problem that has generated a lot of complaints. “This has been a long time coming,” she said of the ordinance.
Only Councilmember Paul Johnson opposed the ordinance because of the impact on truck/trailer and RV owners in the city.
There were commercial/office areas where trucks/trailers/RVs could be parked out of public view with the property owners’ permission, for example, behind the Home Depot store, Johnson said.
Johnson wanted to see some language in the ordinance that would allow the overnight parking 1,000 feet from residential properties, he said.
But Mayor Tim Howe did not see any advantage to that suggestion, he said.
When he was recently at a shopping center, he saw six trucks parked there after 8 p.m., according to Howe.
“That’s a problem,” he said.
Councilmember Bruce Sanders supported the ordinance. “It’s written the way we want it,” he said.
Councilmember Scott Schulte sought to allay Johnson’s concerns by stating there is a lot of industrial property in town where truck/trailer/RV owners could park overnight with the permission of the property owners.
Howe asked if the first violation by a truck/trailer/RV owner could result in a warning rather than citation and fine.
According to Police Chief Brad Wise, police officers have the discretion of issuing warnings rather than citations, as is the case of regular parking violations, and he would proposed that be done for the first violation of this ordinance.
“That’s an excellent idea,” said City Attorney Dave Brodie, who said that the ordinance did not have to be changed to reflect that policy.
Peter Bodley is at firstname.lastname@example.org