Public complaints prompt council to postpone discussion

Due to public reaction to proposed code changes that could affect where residents park vehicles on their property, Gresham city councilors postponed approving them this week.

Gresham city councilors Tuesday, Oct. 4, were poised for a second enactment reading of the changes, which they approved last month as part of this year's code review. Had they approved them for a second time on Tuesday, the changes would have taken effect Nov. 3.

Instead, Mayor Shane Bemis asked that the matter be postponed until the Nov. 1 council meeting so staff has time to make changes.

'I thought given in light of some of the comments that we've received via email from some concerned citizens that it might be wise to take a step back and look at some of the verbage that we have in here to make sure that we don't leave room for a lot of ambiguity,' Bemis said after pulling the item from the meeting's consent agenda. 'I think there were some good suggestions from citizens.'

The recommended changes address motor vehicles on residential lots - specifically maintaining the current limit of five - but adds restrictions on where vehicles can be parked, as well as limits on the type of auto repair that can take place on residential lots.

Proposed code changes call for:

• Extending the amount of time people can camp on private property - including in a recreational vehicle - from 24 hours to 72 hours.

• Allowing recreational vehicles to park on the right of way, which is now prohibited, for up to 72 hours.

• Specifying that one abandoned vehicle may be parked per residential dwelling on private property if covered by a car cover, behind a 'sight obscuring fence' (open chain-link won't do) or in a building.

• Increasing the amount of time a vehicle can park on the street at an address where the vehicle is not registered from 24 hours to 72 hours, and limits the amount of time a car can park on the street where it is registered to 30 days.

• Regulating where and for how long storage 'PODS' can be placed on private property.

• Requiring property owners to register their vacant property and provide up-to-date contact information for the owner or property caretaker, so code compliance workers can 'gain compliance' from property owners of vacant or foreclosed homes.

At least two residents emailed complaints to City Hall about the proposed changes, specifically regarding vehicles and parking.

'I can understand getting eyesores off the street,' said Peter Barr of Gresham. 'But for people with legally registered vehicles that they don't have room in the driveway for, I think it's stupid.'

His household has two cars in the driveway and parks a third on the street in front of his house. And while he moves it within the proposed 30-day window, people might not realize that because he parks in the same spot.

David Kahler of Gresham pointed out the language regarding private property parking is absolute and won't allow residents to even temporarily park in their yards, 'say, to unload materials for a home improvement project. If I am fixing my backyard fence and back the pickup truck into my front yard to unload fencing material close to the gate, it would technically be a violation of code. This is ridiculous.'

He suggested an amendment allowing temporary front yard, side yard and other soft surface parking.

Kahler also suggested rewording the vaguely written code changes restricting vehicle repair on private property by a creating a time limit.

'In these difficult economic times, many more folks are servicing and repairing their own vehicles to save a few bucks at the mechanic,' he wrote. '… Please, let's not overly burden residents with regulations that cost them money they don't have.'

If you go

WHAT: Vote on proposed Gresham code changes

WHEN: 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 1

WHERE: Gresham Council Chambers, 1333 N.W. Eastman Parkway.

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