August 21, 2014 in Washington Voices

Spokane Valley considering parking restrictions for residential streets

By The Spokesman-Review

Spokane Valley city leaders are preparing to consider new restrictions designed to prevent commercial trucks and potentially other large vehicles from using residential streets as parking lots.

Under one of the plans being drafted for future debate, which many council members predict will be robust, vehicles longer than 22 feet would be prohibited from routinely parking on residential streets. The big rigs could still be parked in neighborhoods but only if they are on private property.

“If it’s more than 22 feet long and you can park it on your own lot, more power to you,” Mayor Dean Grafos said in describing the impact of his proposal. “If you park it on the street, that shouldn’t be allowed.”

Backers say it’s designed to keep longhaul and other commercial truckers from using residential streets outside their homes as personal parking lots for their big rigs, which has prompted complaints from neighbors upset over blocked views and diminished access.

But while some council members say they prefer to keep any new restrictions focused just on semi trucks, others contend they should include all large vehicles that can block views and restrict access, including motor homes, RVs and boats. “They’re starting to get bigger and bigger and longer and longer,” Councilman Chuck Hafner noted.

The council directed the city’s legal office to draft two proposals for future consideration: one that’s focused specifically on semitrucks; and a broader version restricting vehicles longer than 22 feet.

Whichever direction the council eventually takes, Hafner wants the final plan to be as simple as possible. “We can’t make it so complex we’re not able to police it,” he said Tuesday.

Those who are able to park their large vehicles on their own property, even within a residential neighborhood, would be unaffected by either of the proposed ordinances, officials said.

Several council members expressed concern over creating financial hardships, particularly for independent truckers and other small business owners who are the most likely to drive home in their commercial vehicles. They also note that many people tend to buy recreational vehicles without taking into account they might not fit in their driveway or in the garage.

Grafos and Hafner, however, said suitable off-street parking for large commercial vehicles should be considered a basic cost of doing business, while proper storage should be factored into the cost of owning recreational vehicles.

Moreover, the overwhelming majority of boats and RVs are under 22 feet and wouldn’t be affected by his proposal, said Grafos, who used to own an RV dealership.

Numerous cities, including Spokane and Liberty Lake, already ban big commercial trucks from routinely parking on residential streets, a city survey shows. Two years ago, Spokane Valley balked at a similar ban following heated debate but did prohibit commercial trucks equipped with refrigeration units because of the constant noise they generate.

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email