What started as a simple measure to control a growing problem for local businesses turned into a long debate over personal property rights for the Centerville City Council.
The council is trying to give city police and business owners a way to handle the volume of vehicles for sale being parked on private property at busy street corners for greater visibility.A prime site has been the First Security Bank parking lot at Main Street and Parrish Lane. Some weekends it's so bad that customers can't use the ATM or night depository because of parked cars, bank manager Fred Petterson told the council.
Dorothy Jones said it's been a problem the five years she's operated a video store at Main Street and Pages Lane. Her posted signs were ignored or destroyed, Jones said, and she even got harassing telephone calls from car dealers accusing her of running a used car lot and competing with them.
Jones said a citywide ordinance is needed because individual property owners can't handle the problem. Their only recourse, if the owner won't move the vehicle, is to have it towed away.
Petterson said vehicle owners have taken to parking in his bank parking lot on Thursday or Friday night to "reserve" a spot for the weekend.
Police Chief Jim Oswald endorsed the proposed ordinance, saying it has grown into a time-consuming public safety problem. Some parked cars are vandalized, drivers slowing down to view the offered merchandise have caused accidents, and police currently have few options to deal with the problem short of having a vehicle towed away, he said.
The ordinance would allow officers to put a violation notice on a vehicle, as a warning, with the next step being a citation. That takes less time than trying to contact the owner to have the vehicle removed, the chief said.
The ordinance would not stop a property owner from parking his own car at his business or a homeowner from advertising a vehicle for sale while parked in the driveway, City Manager David Hales said.
But several councilmen said the language in the ordinance is not clear on that and they don't want any problems with misinterpretation.
After long discussion, Councilman Doug Nielsen said he initially favored the ordinance but now sees it as overkill.
The city already has adequate ordinances on trespassing and abandoned vehicles, Nielsen said, adding he sees the new law as time-consuming for patrolling officers who should be dealing with more pressing issues.
And, restricting sales to vehicles owned by the property owner is too restrictive, Nielsen said.
"It limits the freedom of property owners and individuals too much," Nielsen said, "especially individual to individual commerce."
The council agreed to table the ordinance, asking for some clarification in its wording.