Jessica Cejnar / Wednesday, Sept. 18 @ 2:45 p.m. / Community, Infrastructure, Local Government
Crescent City Council Refuses To Relax Oversized Vehicle Law; Approves Changes to Sidewalk Ordinance
Crescent City Councilors on Monday unanimously accepted staff changes to an ordinance on who when a developer is responsible for sidewalks, curbs and gutters.
But they decided against making an exception to the city’s oversized vehicle parking law to accommodate a resident who drives a logging truck. Though they sympathized with any financial burden that would fall on the resident, who said he’d have to put his truck in a storage facility due to the ordinance, Councilors were unwilling to set a precedent.
“What we have is, whether we like it or not, a very clear defiant line,” Councilor Alex Fallman said. “I was upset for that person, but we just can’t… people are going to be upset. I’m comfortable with the ordinance as is.”
At the Council’s Sept. 3 meeting, Scott Winter, who lives near 5th and C streets, said he received a parking violation due to the size of his logging truck. After 9 years of parking near his home, Winter said, no one had any complaints.
He asked Councilors to change the ordinance so he and others who drive large commercial vehicles could obtain a permit that would allow them to park near their homes.
“It’s my livelihood,” Winter told Councilors. “I could pay someone to let me park somewhere else, but then the issue there is I don’t always work. I’ll go sometimes three weeks out of the month and not work and to have to pay extra on top of that to park somewhere, makes it a hardship for me.”
Under the ordinance, oversized vehicles may park on city streets or in a city parking lot for up to seven consecutive nights with a permit. Only one permit is issued within a 30-day period. The ordinance defines oversized vehicles as one that either exceeds 22 feet in length or exceeds 7-feet in height and 7-feet in width.
The Council approved the ordinance on June 3. it also prohibits unhitched trailers from parking on city streets or in city parking lots. According to the city’s staff report Monday, the ordinance takes into account safety and accessibility on public streets as well as address large vehicles that “negatively impacts the aesthetics” of a neighborhood.
On Monday, City Manager Eric Wier told the Council that Winter’s vehicle is about 36 feet long and 8-9 feet in height and width. When the logging truck is extended, the trailer is 50 to 60 feet long, Wier said.
City streets are about 40 feet from curb to curb, Wier said, allowing for a 12-foot lane and an 8-foot area to park. The ordinance also addresses how close to an intersection oversized vehicles may park, he said.
During discussion, Councilor Jason Greenough suggested that Wier give discretion over whether to make an exception to residents who rely on large trailers and vehicles to make their living.
“The city manager could take in the totality of circumstances, go out there, or have someone go out there, see where he parks it, how long it is, if it’s safe, if there’s enough room for proper traffic passage,” Greenough said. “I know it could get very complicated, but at the same time I think these are working people.”
Initially, Fallman said he also sympathized with Winter and suggested having those who use a commercial vehicle as part of their job to pay for an annual permit rather than having to store their vehicle and pay a monthly bill.
“The overwhelming burden would be putting (the truck) into a storage unit,” he said.
While he agreed that the ordinance does put a burden on some residents, Crescent City Mayor Blake Inscore said the Council must take into consideration whether or not the vehicle is hindering emergency vehicles from providing services. Inscore noted that the size parameters the ordinance uses to define an oversized vehicle was determined with input from retired Crescent City Police Chief Ivan Minsal and Crescent Fire and Rescue Chief Bill Gillespie.
“My concern is not the impact on a single resident who has a single business,” Inscore said. “My concern is establishing a precedent that simply allows, once you make a single exemption, you open yourself up.”
When the oversized vehicle ordinance passed, the Crescent City Police Department began reaching out to those living in RVs to let them know of the changes, said Crescent City acting police chief, Sgt. Ed Wilson. The department has yet to write a ticket for those violating the ordinance, he said.
“These exceptions are going to be rare and the reality is, somebody is not going to be happy, somebody is potentially going to be harmed by this,” Wilson said. “If you introduce any form of accommodation it has to be a section or an ordinance, some new ordinance for parking: City residents can obtain this (permit) for a yearly fee that allows them to do A, B and C.”
Earlier in the meeting, Public Works Director Jon Olson introduced the City Council to the clear triggers staff came up with for when and how much a developer must pay for sidewalks, curbs and gutters.
Under the amended ordinance, if someone is developing on an empty lot, they would be required to install sidewalks, curbs and gutters “to some extent,” Olson said. Anyone wanting to add on to their home, if the cost is 50 percent of the value of the current home, that would also trigger the need for sidewalk improvements.
A non-residential development that adds to the square-footage of an existing structure and whose cost exceeds 50 percent of the value of the building would be subject to sidewalk improvements.
According to Olson, that 50 percent value would be based on the property’s latest assessment rule.
Meanwhile, the existing cap to what a homeowner or property owner is required to spend on sidewalk, curb and gutter improvements would remain at 25 percent of the cost of the proposed improvements, Olson said.
“If the project was a $100,000 project and it met the criteria, the maximum exposure that project proponent would have would be $25,000,” he told Councilors. “Me as the city would go out and prioritize which improvements needed to be made. If the sidewalks were compliant there would be no charge.”
The ordinance doesn’t address ongoing sidewalk maintenance, Olson said.
During the Council’s discussion, Greenough, again, asked to have a provision in the ordinance that would involve the city in the building of the sidewalks.
Olson said existing Public Works staff has their hands full on maintaining city infrastructure.
“I don’t feel like new construction is the best fit for our maintenance crews,” Olson told Greenough. “I would say we can do it. We’re capable and able, bu tit’s not something that’s a sustainable model based on all the other items that crews are working on.”
During public comment, former City Councilor Darren Short said when the ordinance was up for discussion previously, the Council didn’t want to hinder homeowners from making improvements.
Wier, however, noted that the requirement to make improvements to sidewalks, curbs and gutters would only be triggered if someone was adding on to an existing structure or undergoing a new project on an undeveloped parcel of land.
In other matters, following a public hearing, the City Council unanimously approved an ordinance allowing Crescent City Fire and Rescue to recoup costs for responding to traffic collisions, extrications, vehicle fires and hazmat situations.
Under the new ordinance, the at-fault driver’s insurance will be billed. If the insurer refuses to pay, under the ordinance, the client agency can cease further collections. The amount recovered would vary based on call volume, according to the city’s staff report.
Last year Crescent City Fire and Rescue responded to 19 incidents within city limits. With vehicle accidents and collisions with pedestrians being billed at a $487 mitigation fee, and a vehicle fire billed at a $677 mitigation fee, the city could have recovered a total of $9,443, according to the staff report.
Gillespie said if emergency responders have to use hydraulic tools to extricate a passenger from the vehicle, the mitigation fee is higher.