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Legal verbiage needed for code change


trimster
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So the city code enforcement guy shows up at my house at 8am to place tag on my truck indicating that I am in violation of the city code banning "semi trucks' from bring parked on residential property. We had a constructive, civil conversation. His stance... "it looks like a semi so it's a semi" even though it is registered as a motorhome. He was interested in how that could happen. I explained that the state has a form called "re-classification of vehicle status" and that the state now sees this as a motorhome. That's what the title says. He found that interesting (he did not know this was possible) but held his line.

So, what I am going to do is attempt to have the verbiage of the code re-worked to be more specific. It's helpful that one of the city council is a friend living on the next block.

What I am looking for is the words that might me proposed to specifically separate a "commercial" truck from one that has been certified by the state as a non-commercial vehicle (in this case a motorhome) no matter what its outward appearance might 'appear' to be. 

This is the code for the county:

Commercial vehicles. Commercial vehicles shall not be parked or stored on residential property in an R-1 or R-2 zone, except in the following circumstances:

Commercial vehicles may be parked on a property in conjunction with lawfully- permitted construction, maintenance, or site development activities so long as said activities are diligently pursued.

One commercial vehicle may be parked behind the front line of the dwelling and, screened from view from public streets or neighboring properties with a six-foot tall (minimum) opaque fence.3.

One commercial vehicle may be parked in the front yard or side yard of a dwelling, in the R-1 or R-2 zones upon issuance of a permit by planning and development services, as long as all of the following criteria are met:

No other commercial vehicle is parked or stored on the property.b.

The operator of the vehicle is required to be on call 24 hours a day to use the vehicle in response to an emergency;c.

The commercial vehicle is parked on a paved surface in compliance with section 19.80.030.C or 19.80.035.A;d.

The commercial vehicle is parked entirely on private property, not parked on or over the street or sidewalk; and.

The commercial vehicle does not exceed Class 5 (two-axle, six tire single unit trucks) in Federal Highway Administration vehicle classification.

 

This is the code for the city I live in of an RV .:

11.20.055: PARKING OF RECREATIONAL VEHICLES OR TRAVEL TRAILERS:
   A.   Definitions: As used in this section:
RECREATIONAL VEHICLE: A vehicular unit other than a mobile home, primarily designated as a temporary dwelling for travel, recreational, or vacation use, which is either self- propelled or pulled by another vehicle. Recreational vehicle includes a travel trailer, a camping trailer, a fifth wheel trailer, and a motor home. "Travel trailer", "camping trailer", or "fifth wheel trailer" means a portable vehicle without motive power, designed as a temporary dwelling for travel, recreational, or vacation use that does not require a special highway movement permit when drawn by a self- propelled motor vehicle.
TRAVEL TRAILER: A portable vehicle without motive power, designed as temporary dwelling for travel, recreation, or vacation use that does not require special highway permit from the state of Utah when drawn by a self-propelled motor vehicle.
   B.   General Prohibition: No recreational vehicle or travel trailer shall be parked or stored anywhere within the city except as permitted by this section.
   C.   Street/Highway Parking: A recreational vehicle or travel trailer may be parked on a public street for up to twenty four (24) consecutive hours.
   D.   Private Property Parking: A recreational vehicle or travel trailer may park on private property with the permission of the property owner/representative for an indefinite time as long as it does not violate any other ordinance or law. (Ord. 09-12, 3-18-2009)

I think there's another bit of city code/ordinance that I can't find right now though the cities web site.

So rather than ranting about government over reach...please be constructive with ideas on how to approach this and maybe some snippets of words that might help narrow the code to still be enforceable for commercial vehicles and exclude state titled motorhomes.

Thanks all. Appreciate the input.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Does your state issue specific plates for RVs or commercial vehicles? That would be the simplest divider. If not, it would probably have to revolve around the fact of titling as an RV. Possibly a permit of some sort after proof of title conversion.

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1 hour ago, Moresmoke said:

Does your state issue specific plates for RVs or commercial vehicles? That would be the simplest divider. If not, it would probably have to revolve around the fact of titling as an RV. Possibly a permit of some sort after proof of title conversion.

Plates.... not really. The biggest indicator visually is the lack of DOT information on the sides of the vehicle. Ours, like most of us, has 'RV use only. Not for hire' or something to that effect. 

The 'permit' idea is a good one albeit another hassle. But less hassle than what I am going through. And with all the rules and regulations and code now that people are not aware of, not sure how someone new to this HDT ownership lifestyle would know that they needed a permit (hopefully free but I'm not holding my breath on that one). In fact, the conversation with the code enforcement dude revealed a code I had not heard of...'residential areas can NOT have more than one RV on the premises'. Utah is known for its large families. Many here pull a travel trailer behind their motorhomes so they have sleeping space. But my speculation... the code was written to go after those that have a raggedy trailer (not used) and a newer (replacement) RV/Trailer on their property.

I guess a newbe to the HDT-as-RV world that did not know about the code, would wait until the code folks dropped by and put a violation card on the truck.

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Since the code mentioned the Federal Highway vehicle classification, maybe copy the description that indicates what makes a vehicle a commercial vehicle from the federal standards. I think there may also be something that discusses recreational vehicles in there too but I am not an expert on those items. Maybe a former or current DOT officer might help, there are a couple on the forum.

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I went through this a few years back and did not try and re-write our bylaws but bypassed the guy that put the tag on my "motorhome". We can park RV's (Motorhome's) on our private property here in back lane or back yard scenarios. Front drive RV parking is seasonal. So, when I was told I had 48hrs to remove the "commercial vehicle" off my property I called the supervisor of bylaws for parking in the City and said that this was a motorhome and registered as such. I said that if I had to remove my motorhome that they would have to remove anything registered as a motorhome in the city. I then proceeded to send my "motorhome"registration to them and within a day case was closed and I asked them to mark this case to my property address to avoid any future confusion by his bylaw officers. It seem like you have all the rules in place when you get to the right person that will run a license plate no# before issuing citations. IMO 

Edited by RickS
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I expect that somebody lodged a complaint re: your vehicle & property use. I would also expect whatever office is handling this matter to resist telling you who filed said complaint. A FOIA request might force them to release the details (which might end the investigation right there if the whiner wants to remain anonymous and withdraw their objection). Once you know who filed the complaint, you might be able to have a discussion with said person. BEFORE you do that, be sure to have "your ducks in a row" so that you're ready to answer / deflect whatever issues the complainer may have. You may not be able to change his / her thinking but, if you're 100% in compliance, you should prevail. By all means speak to your friend who is in local government. He can be a wealth of information and very useful in crafting new verbiage that doesn't throw you and other RVers "under the bus". You don't mention if your property is in a Home Owners Association. If it IS, you can be in for a world of hurt as a HOA's bylaws can be MUCH more stringent that "local" code.

You also mentioned " Utah is known for its large families. Many here pull a travel trailer behind their motorhomes so they have sleeping space". Doing so can be incredibly dangerous and, in many places, simply having passengers riding inside a trailer is illegal. I believe FEDERAL regs REQUIRE a properly installed seat belt for EACH passenger. FEW RVs have that many "properly installed" seat belts so, there's a serious safety issue as well as a legal issue if ALL of the family ride inside the rig.

When I owned a "stick & brick", I was lucky in that I could get my Super-C in behind my house where it was not visible from the street. The neighbors on either side had no problem with my rig being on my property either. Can you "hide" your rig somewhere in the back of your property? If you can, that might placate whiners and, keep your rig safer from parts pirates. Good luck!

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10 hours ago, jkoenig24 said:

I expect that somebody lodged a complaint re: your vehicle & property use. I would also expect whatever office is handling this matter to resist telling you who filed said complaint. A FOIA request might force them to release the details (which might end the investigation right there if the whiner wants to remain anonymous and withdraw their objection). Once you know who filed the complaint, you might be able to have a discussion with said person. BEFORE you do that, be sure to have "your ducks in a row" so that you're ready to answer / deflect whatever issues the complainer may have. You may not be able to change his / her thinking but, if you're 100% in compliance, you should prevail. By all means speak to your friend who is in local government. He can be a wealth of information and very useful in crafting new verbiage that doesn't throw you and other RVers "under the bus". You don't mention if your property is in a Home Owners Association. If it IS, you can be in for a world of hurt as a HOA's bylaws can be MUCH more stringent that "local" code.

You also mentioned " Utah is known for its large families. Many here pull a travel trailer behind their motorhomes so they have sleeping space". Doing so can be incredibly dangerous and, in many places, simply having passengers riding inside a trailer is illegal. I believe FEDERAL regs REQUIRE a properly installed seat belt for EACH passenger. FEW RVs have that many "properly installed" seat belts so, there's a serious safety issue as well as a legal issue if ALL of the family ride inside the rig.

When I owned a "stick & brick", I was lucky in that I could get my Super-C in behind my house where it was not visible from the street. The neighbors on either side had no problem with my rig being on my property either. Can you "hide" your rig somewhere in the back of your property? If you can, that might placate whiners and, keep your rig safer from parts pirates. Good luck!

So were are in a typical city neighborhood. No HOA crap. We have 11' min. evesments. I don't have quite enough clearance to back the 'motorhome' behind the house due to the condo top and the house roof eve and the gate posts. But it's just a few inches short of clearing. I do slip the 5th wheel back along side the house.

The code guy said his action was "NOT motivated by a complaint". Rather, there are at least 3 commercial semis that park in driveways more than a few days a week within a 5 block radius. That is a new thing. I took an evening wander on the Spyder and found those semis. That IS a violation of the code.

He's also going after a couple of people that  have 5th wheel trailers that hang well over the sidewalk, blocking any pedestrians. Before we were a city, the county didn't really care to enforce this kinda stuff. When voters opted to incorporate as a city, the swath of new codes and ordinances began. 

The code guy also said he "has been watching me and my previous trucks for years (a series of 1 tons, then an International 4700 fully decked out as an RV hauler) and now this truck". 

I heard back from my city councilman friend within minutes of emailing him. Good sign. He asked if he could forward the email I sent to him on to the enforcement folks. Of course, yes. I plead my case from several angles, including those who have done bus conversions on their property. And one who converted a box truck. All the while stating that my semi-looking thing is factually a motorhome, not a commercial truck.

I'm sure it will take a few days to get feedback. I will be sending on a copy of the title clearly showing it's a motorhome in the eyes of the state. If I prevail, I'm pretty sure this code guy is going to feel a bit butt-hurt and then start nit-picking me. Wait until he finds out that our zero scape front yard was not designed and overseen by a 'certified zero scape landscape architect'. Yes. That is a code in our city. 

 

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My recommendation

Don't attempt to edit the existing code, the existing code already protects you in that it explicitly states 'commercial' which your truck isn't (you are registered as a motorhome). My rational being that the new code could be written to include your truck vs excluding it.

Stop by the city with the following

- the cities code (which says commercial)

- your ticket

- your registration (which says motorhome)

Have them void your ticket.  Don't talk about reclassification or anything else, just refer to the registration which says motorhome.

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2 minutes ago, jkoenig24 said:

'certified zero scape landscape architect'

 

What the heck IS that????    

Again I don't want to vier political so here's the facts. A past city council person wanted to help a family member with their new certification,  make some money.

Before big box stores, another county council member, who's brother owned a building supply store sell more sheetrock screws by changing the code for fire rock board separating the house from the garage. Used to be a screw every 12". Changed to every 8".

Every city and town has this stuff going on. These are 2 that affected something I was doing. Hence, I dug into the back story. I was a tv news producer for years. I like digging into stuff like this. Typically, if it doesn't make sense on the surface...there's a story of personal gain in there somewhere.

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Looked at the volvo title.

Type: truck

Classification: motorhome 

 

If it was a bus conversion it would say Bus and Motorhome.

A super-C would say truck and motorhome. 

Seems Utah looks at the original build as the type, and what it functionally is as the classification. My 5th wheel is trailer and then 5th wheel (vs travel trailer or flatbed, etc)

I think presenting the title is all I will need to make this go away.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Update: 

This is still ongoing.  The hurtle is the code guys myopic view that no matter what the title says, he sees a semi. 

The city code folks are having a meeting in a few weeks to discuss.  I've asked to be a part of the discussion. 

This is getting a bit irritating.  I might be getting an attorney to draft a letter regarding compliance and the states sole jurisdiction over vehicle classification. But attorney in the mix always rachetts things up a bit. Right now, to them, I appear cooperative.  That appears to be a plus.

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1 hour ago, durangodon said:

Don't be surprised if the city/county folks agree with you, then change the code to include a ban on your "motorhome" also.

Of course they will. They live for that kinda stuff.

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I fight this fight on a regular basis with my city. Your going to have to wait for a citation and request a court date.  Show the court your title and registration and call it a day. The next time the city cites you it is now "harassment" and you will be in a very good bargaining position. 

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3 hours ago, solo318 said:

I fight this fight on a regular basis with my city. Your going to have to wait for a citation and request a court date.  Show the court your title and registration and call it a day. The next time the city cites you it is now "harassment" and you will be in a very good bargaining position. 

It might not be that simple.  Where I live, this would come before the Board of Zoning Appeals, a 5 member board which is essentially a court.  It's made up of appointed citizens and other county board representatives.  If your board is reasonable, this would be a slam-dunk.  But not all boards are......  And if this doesn't go well, you'd need to hire an attorney to file suit.

I have a bit of experience in this type matter, having sat on the above mentioned board for 7 years, 4 as president.  Gather your facts (legal definition of "motorhome"), and be honest.

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7 hours ago, rickeieio said:

It might not be that simple.  Where I live, this would come before the Board of Zoning Appeals, a 5 member board which is essentially a court.  It's made up of appointed citizens and other county board representatives.  If your board is reasonable, this would be a slam-dunk.  But not all boards are......  And if this doesn't go well, you'd need to hire an attorney to file suit.

I have a bit of experience in this type matter, having sat on the above mentioned board for 7 years, 4 as president.  Gather your facts (legal definition of "motorhome"), and be honest.

Big thanks for this. Not sure the process here. Need to research more.

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Whatever you do, don't go strutting in acting like you're gonna show 'em a thing or two.  Leave them clues so they can figure out that you're on solid ground.  Nobody likes to have somebody crash their party and prove them wrong.

Something tells me that with your background of investigative reporting, you'll do fine.

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Lawd.  I sure am glad I don't live where you guys do.

The only Home Owners Association I have to answer to is my wife and she's pretty reasonable.  You couldn't pay me enough to life in one of these tyrannical neighborhoods...

 

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it would be very bad if this code enforcer worked in ca, as ALL pickups are registered as commercial trucks. except if you know the law and do a rv, or show truck thing on the title. not always easy to get and if you did not obey the rules 1000% you get hit big time back tax, and penalty's.  the only thing that changes on the pu is the plates, as they get a non commercial plate. 

commercial has to pay a weight tax, so no level of government wants to allow it as it cuts there tax income.

good luck getting your rights on this.

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On 5/11/2021 at 12:16 PM, rickeieio said:

It might not be that simple.  Where I live, this would come before the Board of Zoning Appeals, a 5 member board which is essentially a court.  It's made up of appointed citizens and other county board representatives.  If your board is reasonable, this would be a slam-dunk.  But not all boards are......  And if this doesn't go well, you'd need to hire an attorney to file suit.

I have a bit of experience in this type matter, having sat on the above mentioned board for 7 years, 4 as president.  Gather your facts (legal definition of "motorhome"), and be honest.

Sound advice.  I have a similar background as Rickeieio with 9 years on my local city council as councilman & Mayor Pro-Tem.  Get yourself very familiar with the local city/county/state ordinances.  Laws/ordinances are going to vary based on state/location.

One of the first things to figure out is if this code enforcement officer is busting your chops based on his "view" of the ordinance or is his view of the ordinance the view of all the code enforcement officers?  If it is just his understanding of the ordinance and not the departments understanding, just talking to the department head in this case should resolve the problem.

If the problem is still unresolved and the answer is unsatisfactory then find out who code enforcement answers too and talk to them.  In the case of the city I live in code enforcement is part of the planning department.  I have had incidences where code enforcement translated how to enforce/apply an ordinance one way but the Planning Director saw things differently.  If all are still on the same page at this point just keep going up the food chain to find out if there is a difference of opinion in the chain of how the ordinance is being applied.  In my case the next step after the Planning Director would be the City Manager and/or City Council.

The important thing is when talking to these various employees of the city and/or city council is your approach.  Being inquisitive like you are on trying to be more informed will get you much further than guns a blazing.  If you are able to find someone who agrees with your view of the ordinance then the soft approach just increases the odds that they will help you get the issue resolved.

If all that fails, here locally, the code enforcement will issue a citation for failure to fix/resolve the issue at hand.  The citation is just like a traffic citation in that you can pay the fine or go before the municipal judge.  The municipal judge is a city employee (contractor) but in our case has no function in local government other than residing over municipal court.  Now is when you prove your point that the city's enforcement of the ordinance is wrong.

If that fails you could then go before our Zoning Board of Adjustments (ZBOA).  Here is where you can ask for a variance.  In our case the ZBOA is a panel of citizens appointed by the City Council to look at cases like this on a case by case basis.  If they agree with you then they can issue you a variance that in this case would allow you to keep your "motorhome" on your property.

Now is the City Council may be sympathetic to your case but may have their hands tied due to they way the ordinance is written.  Most likely the council that wrote the ordinance no longer has any members currently sitting on the current council.  So it would be a good idea to lobby the council have the ordinance modified or repealed.  The way it works here is it takes two city council members to get the item added to a council agenda.  Council typically would then have the Planning & Zoning commission study the issue and propose changes.  Depending on how the current ordinance is written it would be sent to council as a recommendation or P&Z would draft the revised ordinance and vote on it.  Then it would go back to council approval or if council asks for more revisions then back to P&Z and thru that process again.  As you can guess getting the ordinance changed can take some time but a much better than solution than rolling the dice for a variance from the ZBOA.

In short, be patient and willing to do some leg work.  Hopefully you will be able to find a difference in how staff views the ordinance should be enforced.  Exploiting that differences in views of how the ordinance should be enforced is going to be the easiest and fastest way to get this resolved.

Again processes will very by location and laws.  Hopefully this will provide some insight on how to proceed.  Best of Luck!

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  • 2 weeks later...

You're lucky the codes don't specify gross weights, as they do in the areas I live. 

Something to the effect of: ANY vehicle over 10,000# GVWR can't be parked on residential property (ahead of the setback line) more than 72 hours. Certain exceptions apply such as during construction or remodeling, demolition, etc. 

But this means,. motorhome, truck, dump trailer, camper, RV, box truck, cargo van, travel trailer....classification is irrelevant, weight rating is what they go by here.

If you go in trying to change the law, they might slip this into the codes...ooops.

 

 

 

 

Edited by podwerkz
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