City relaxes RV and boat parking ordinance for peak summer months

The City of Clovis’ new ordinance provides flexibility for RV and boat owners, allowing them to park their recreational vehicles in their driveway during the summer months. (Pixabay)

Clovis residents who tire of having to go back and forth from their mini storage unit each summer weekend to get their boat or RV will be able to enjoy relaxed restrictions to the city’s recreation vehicle ordinance from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

During this timeframe, Cpl. Curtis Shurtliff said the Clovis Police Department often receives numerous calls for service complaining of neighbors’ RVs parked on streets and in driveways, as well as numerous calls from recreational vehicle owners asking an exception be made in the days between frequent weekend getaways for their family.

In the past, Shurtliff said, the city has relaxed the ordinance before but that experiment proved too lax. This time around, Clovis PD is trying to compromise with both recreational vehicle owners and their neighbors by allowing RV and boat owners to park their recreational vehicles in their driveway only during the summer months—no parking them on the street in front of their neighbor’s homes.

The hope, Shurtliff said, is that this will reduce both calls for service and special requests regarding this ordinance, freeing officers to pursue more egregious violators of other ordinances as well as the real criminals that tend to lurk in the summer as residents leave their homes unattended and go on vacation.

“During the summer months, the police department responds to a lot of requests about recreational vehicles parking in driveways, that includes in front of their homes and in their driveways and in front of their houses. The police department has also received numerous requests in these months of people requesting to park their RV or boat or recreational vehicle in their driveway,” Shurtliff said. “Looking at this, we decided that the top peak days in the calendar are from Memorial Day to Labor Day and these are the times that we receive many of these requests. We thought maybe we could relax the vehicle code during these times to allow RVs/boats to be parked in their driveway and in their driveway only.

“This has been tried before in the past, however it allowed persons to park their RVs in the roadway as well which became a huge parking problem – and we actually received more complaints. This time we would like to try just relaxing the municipal code to allow persons to park their recreational vehicles (personal trailers, RVs and boats) in their driveway.”

Not just any recreational vehicle can be parked in the driveway, however. The vehicle must be currently registered, must be kept clean—no flat tires or cobwebs—must not encroach onto the sidewalk or into the roadway, must be parked in the registered owners’ driveway, and must not exceed 25 feet in length.

The city’s current municipal code doesn’t allow such vehicles to park in driveways at all and the police department not only responds to calls for service from neighbors but its volunteer force is out actively patrolling and enforcing the ordinance. The first violation is just a warning and most residents, Shurtliff said, comply after the warning, moving their vehicle within 24 to 48 hours. If the boat or RV isn’t moved, he said the citation process begins, starting with a $100 citation, then a $500 citation and then a $1,000 citation. In a few cases, the city has had to have repeat violator vehicles towed. By relaxing this code, the police department will be able to focus on other matters during these summer months, when recreational vehicles are heavily used.

Councilmembers ultimately agreed to try the experiment of relaxing the ordinance this summer, although they expressed concerns that some neighbors won’t like it and others will push the new boundaries.

Mayor Bob Whalen said in an ideal world, he’d like to see recreational vehicle owners get buy-in from their neighbors, similar to how one needs permission from neighbors to run a business out of their home. But creating an exempt list, Shurtliff said, would make enforcement complicated as officers would then need to look up each address. Plus, he said, it isn’t necessarily fair as some neighbors just won’t relent, while others don’t mind at all.

“The ordinance is the ordinance and what is fair for one is fair for all,” Shurtliff said. “This way during these specific days of the year, someone can park their recreational vehicle so long as it falls within the perimeters we’re requesting in their own driveway. It is really just to allow those that use their RV or boat every weekend to park in the driveway.”

Lynne Ashbeck said her concern is that those with smaller driveways will push the issue and if they are cited for encroaching on the sidewalk, they may try to park in the street.

“This will allow you to park an RV or boat in your own driveway, so long as you don’t have one of those five-foot driveways,” Ashbeck said. “I can see it escalating. They will figure out they can’t park in the driveway because their driveway is too short, so they’ll want to park on the street instead. I think that is the logical progression of one’s brain, so I do think we have a number of those neighborhoods with small driveways where this could present a problem, but I guess we don’t know until we try it.”

Shurtliff said the police department will come back before the council after Labor Day with a report on how the relaxed ordinance worked. If it does reduce calls as hoped, it is likely they will continue to do relaxed enforcement during the summer months, but if there is no real progress, the ordinance will be enforced as usual in summer 2019.

Councilmember Drew Bessinger said he is hopeful the relaxed enforcement works.

“I don’t have a boat, but I’d hate to have to drive it back and forth from the mini storage every weekend when I’m using it, so in that spirit I think this is a good idea,” Bessinger said.