BERLIN – An ordinance intended to prohibit parking of cars in residential front yards proved to be less than straightforward Monday night with the Berlin Mayor and Council questioning just how “a designated driveway” is defined.
The council normally sits in silence when an ordinance is first read aloud by town attorney Dave Gaskill during a council meeting and rarely comment until the second reading.
Motor vehicles, under the ordinance, must be “parked on a designated driveway or parking pad area.”
Councilwoman Paula Lynch asked Gaskill whether the new ordinance would allow a resident to spread gravel in their front yard and call that a driveway.
“I imagine they could,” Gaskill said.
Mayor Tom Cardinale asked Gaskill to clarify whether several cars parked on the lawn of a rental property would be covered by the ordinance.
“That would be prohibited, yes,” Gaskill said.
“What concerns me is anyone could put gravel in their front yard and create a parking area or designated driveway,” Lynch said.
People who want to park in their front yard will need to turn their front yard into a parking area, Council Vice President Gee Williams said after the meeting.
That is the case at rental properties across from Worcester Preparatory School, Lynch said. “What is a designated driveway?” she wondered.
“If ‘designated parking area’ isn’t specific enough for you, I’m open to direction from the council,” Gaskill said.
Some have no alternative parking space, Cardinale said. While some residents have the option of parking on the street, others must use their property.
“The house next door to me, the front yard is entirely gravel,” Councilwoman Ellen Lang said. “There’s no room to put a driveway to the back yard. The man has no place to park but the front yard.”
Gaskill said no specific fine is specified for yard parking infractions.
Cardinale suggested that the exact fine per incident be stated in the ordinance.
The fine structure for improperly parked vehicles is the same as that for other code violations, Gaskill said.
Just a handful of properties would be affected by the new ordinance, if it passes, but that is the case with many provisions of the code, Williams said.
“It’s hopefully creating an incentive for them to stop and think,” he said. “Unfortunately you have to pass these regulations to try to influence a small group of people who don’t think about anyone else but themselves. We owe it to the rest of the community who do take pride in their appearance to do what we can.”
An ordinance requiring dog owners to pick up pet waste was also introduced, but not discussed, that night.