The Dalles City Council on Monday unanimously approved a permit system for RV parking on city streets, and modified current on-street parking restrictions for RVs and oversized vehicles to allow for vehicles in violation to be impounded and towed 24 hours after the posting of the first $20 citation.
Previously, vehicles could only be impounded following a sixth citation.
Over the next 30 days, “door hangers” describing the new restrictions will be distributed to residents thought to be in violation, prior to citations being issued.
The new rule allows the parking of a recreational vehicle on a public street only for the “immediate loading or unloading of persons or property,” unless the owner, operator, or person controlling the RV has obtained a parking permit from the city.
The free permit is good for five days. Only a property owner or legal tenant can apply for a permit, and they are limited to six permits in a year. Under the permit, an RV can be parked only “immediately adjacent to the permit holder's property or dwelling.”
No permits would be issued for an RV which qualifies as an abandoned vehicle under the city’s public nuisance ordinance, the ordinance states.
The ordinance defines an RV as “a motor home, camper, travel trailer, motor coach or portable vehicular structure capable of being towed on the highways by a motor vehicle, designed and intended for casual or short-term human occupancy for travel, recreational or vacation uses.”
The new law also establishes restrictions on the parking of boats on trailers, other trailers and oversized vehicles on city streets, and makes them subject to impoundment and towing 24 hours after a citation has been issued.
“In recent years, the City has received numerous complaints related to the parking of recreational vehicles upon public streets and public property,” said city attorney Gene Parker, who drafted the ordinance. “In some cases, the RVs are abandoned, and in other cases they are being used for long term residential use.”
The Dalles ordinance draws from similar laws established in Gresham and McMinnville, which have been effective in preventing long term storage of RVs on the street, including those being used for residential purposes, Parker said.
“Currently we issue five citations, and can only tow on the sixth,” explained Police Chief Patrick Ashmore. That makes the parking ordinance unenforceable, he said. “We need to give officers the tools to enforce the parking ordinance fairly. This adds teeth to the ordinance.”
It will cost the city $2,500 to have an RV over 17 feet long towed, Ashmore said, and the city will have to use a company in Hood River because no company in The Dalles accepts vehicles over 17 feet long. The tow fee covers the cost of breaking the vehicle down and dealing with hazardous waste like lead and asbestos, should the owner not recover the RV, which Ashmore said was a likely scenario. “If there is no value, they will be abandoned and not recovered,” he said.
Councilor Darcy Long-Curtiss asked how the city would defend itself against charges of targeting or “profiling” those using their RV as a residence. “There is a liability if we are doing selective enforcement, or profiling,” she said.
“Everybody will be treated the same,” responded Ashmore. “It’s really up to the individual whether to move it or not,”. They’ll have a citation, whether it’s an RV out in front of somebody's home, or somebody living in it. They will be treated the same.”
He said enforcement would also be complaint driven. Some occupied RVs have already been identified as a problem, he said. “We do have some that have already generated a lot of complaints,” he said. “They know this is coming,” he added, and said officers were more inclined to help those who are struggling than not. “Every one of these folks will be treated exactly the same,” he said.
He added that he has budgeted for some towing, but not a lot. “A couple of tows, and we’re done,” he said. He said once it becomes known vehicles are being towed, he expects to have fewer of them parking on city streets.
He said he anticipates neighbor on neighbor complaints creating a rash of enforcement requests.
“If you are an entrepreneur, it would be a good time to start up an RV and large vehicle storage business,” Ashmore said.
Mayor Rich Mays asked about those streets which are wide enough to accommodate an RV or oversized vehicle without hindering local traffic. Ashmore noted that there would be no exceptions, and noted very few streets in the city were that wide.
Trailered boats, other large trailers and other oversized vehicles are also targeted by the ordinance.
These vehicles can create potential hazards to motorists using the street, and also create an obstacle to equipment used by the Public Works Department to clean and plow public streets, the ordinance states.
The ordinance defines an oversized vehicle as any vehicle, motorized or non-motorized, which exceeds 22 feet in length, or 94 inches in width, or 92 inches in height. The definition will include all “buses, tractors, semi-trailers, motor coaches, trailers, campers, camper-trailers, housecars, trailer coaches, trailer houses, motor homes, boat or horse trailers, mobile homes, utility trailers, and other equipment or machinery,” which fit within the prescribed dimensions.
The ordinance passed unanimously.