Council nixes increased parking restrictions on homeowners

The Mesquite City Council voted down proposed increased restrictions on parking at private homes after several councilors said they received more complaints against the idea than for it.

The proposal was on the council agenda for the Nov. 28 meeting as an introductory measure to establish “performance standards for driveways and parking spaces in the single family residential zone.”

The measure would have established requirements for paving materials, where vehicles could be parked, and how unregistered or inoperative vehicles would be allowed on private property. The restrictions would have applied mainly to homes not included in formal homeowner associations since most of them have their own guidelines.

Richard Secrist, city Development Services director, said the action arose because of a couple complaints the city had received and ambiguity in current codes hindered enforcement efforts. Secrist said he was seeking clarity from the council regarding the issue.

Had the council approved the agenda item, a public hearing would have been set. But it never got that far when three councilmen, Brian Wursten, Richard Green and David Ballweg, voted against approving the introduction. Councilman Geno Withelder voted to allow the hearing. Councilman George Rapson was not present at the meeting.

Wursten said he had talked to a number of people about the issue and was troubled by several details. “Have there been a lot of complaints about parking,” Wursten asked.

“We get a number of complaints every year about people parking in their front yards and whether parking spaces should be paved,” Secrist said. “If they are paved, what kind of material should be used. The current code doesn’t answer those questions. We don’t want to guess or impose our interpretation if it isn’t in writing.”

“I’m just not excited about a lot more regulations,” Wursten said. “I look at the area where I live. There are a number of cars. Some of the places don’t even have sidewalks. All they have is to park on the dirt. Are we going to make all of them follow this code by putting thousands of dollars into making this work? If people want to live in an area that have these type of restrictions, maybe they can move into an HOA.”

Wursten was referring to the code language that would require all driveways and parking areas around a single-family home be paved with “a hard surface such as concrete, asphalt, brick, crushed rock, or other similarly durable hardened improved surface with a defined edge.”

Secrist said there are already rules that need to be enforced. “The intent is to make it so they can be enforced,” he said. “We don’t necessarily go around looking for violations. But when there’s a complaint, we do. If it’s enough of an issue that neighbors are complaining, then it’s an issue and should be addressed in some way.”

“I understand there are people who don’t want to live in an HOA and there are people that do,” Ballweg said. “I think we need to have some basic guidelines to enforce parking. I wanted to keep this on the agenda to get public comment and input and I’m disappointed we didn’t get any [tonight]. If people would come and talk to us at these meetings, we would have a better idea of what they want.”

City Attorney Bob Sweetin said parking in a home’s front yard is clearly a violation of the current code. “The problem comes up when they park in the side yard,” Sweetin said. “But under this new ordinance we would be requiring homes to pave their driveways even though they may have a dirt or gravel driveway that’s been there for 20 or 30 years. I don’t feel comfortable prosecuting this type of case.”

Discussions among the councilmen and staff revealed that current ordinances do in fact govern front yards parking, unregistered vehicles, and junk or rotting vehicles.

“The problem with complaint-based enforcement is that if we don’t keep track of the complaint and who made it, then we run into problems,” Sweetin said. “We can’t go about selectively enforcing codes. It’s not allowed. It’s illegal. We can’t say to someone, ‘hey, your neighbor complained so you have to put in a $5,000 driveway’ but say to the next guy ‘hey, your neighbor didn’t complain so you don’t have to follow the law.’”

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