Berlin Tables Front-Yard Parking Ban

BERLIN – Motorists who park vehicles on the front lawn got a reprieve Monday night when an ordinance prohibiting front yard parking was put aside for more study by the Berlin Town Council.

Although the public hearing this week attracted only two speakers, both with questions on the ordinance but neither vehemently against the regulation, the council saw issues in the ordinance that precluded passage.

Under the ordinance, motor vehicles must be “parked on a designated driveway or parking pad area,” not simply on the grass or dirt.

The first reading of the ordinance two weeks ago revealed the first stirrings of unease in the council over the regulation, prompting questions over the definition of designated parking.

Town attorney Dave Gaskill acknowledged the ordinance would allow a property owner to spread gravel on the lawn to park on it.

Nothing has been changed in the bill in the two weeks since it was first read.

A woman staying with her ill father in Berlin said that she did not understand why she could not park her truck to the side of the driveway, on the grass, at her father’s home.

“As long as I’m keeping my grass cut and the yard neat, I don’t understand why there’s a problem with that,” she said.

“Because this is not Berlin, W.Va.,” Council Vice President Gee Williams replied. “To park in the yard, it’s not the community standard.”

She does have the option of creating more driveway space in that yard to accommodate her truck, said Williams.

“If the car was abandoned or on blocks or trashy, I would understand it,” she said.

Councilman Elroy Brittingham suggested she extend the driveway with crushed stone.

“I can’t afford to do it all at one time,” the woman said.

 “We understand that there are limits to what you can do at any one time,” Williams said.

In response to a question from another citizen, wondering if parking in a side yard would be illegal under the proposed ordinance, Williams said that side yard parking was fine.

The ordinance was proposed in the wake of citizen concern over cars parked in the front yards of homes broken up into apartments. The regulation would affect few properties in town if passed, the council concluded two weeks ago.

“This type of ordinance originates with the public being upset with certain circumstances,” said Mayor Tom Cardinale. “I’ve had complaints.”

Cardinale added, “Unfortunately, when you write an ordinance, you can’t say, except, except, except.”

 “I think we could work on it a little it more,” said Councilwoman Ellen Lang.

Lang’s motion to table the ordinance was unanimously approved.

Councilman Dean Burrell wondered why the parking regulations for apartments and bed and breakfasts were not used to govern the properties garnering the complaints.

Single-family homes are subject to minimal parking standards, with no requirement of number of cars a driveway must accommodate. Bed and breakfasts are required to have certain parking spaces, Berlin Administrative Director Linda Bambary said.

At least one of the houses, on Broad St., that prompted consideration of the ordinance banning parking in front yards in Berlin, is a single-family home with multiple residents. It is not officially a boarding or rooming house, so there are no parking standards to apply, Bambary said.

Also Monday night, the council passed an ordinance requiring dog walkers to pick up after their canines with one public comment in support.

“It’s a courtesy to your neighbors. It’s no big deal. Grab a bag and pick it up,” said Cardinale.