By Alex Bridges -- email@example.com
STRASBURG -- Nearly a dozen town residents protested against proposed rules on recreational vehicles and smoking at a Town Council meeting Monday.
Strasburg officials and council members heard from the residents at a work session prior to discussing issues such as an ordinance which seeks to ban smoking on property owned or leased by the town. Council also discussed a proposed change in the zoning ordinance which officials said tried to clarify how many recreational vehicles, such as campers and boats, a person to park in the rear or side of the private lots.
Members in the audience who spoke claimed the proposed ordinances would infringe on their rights as residents and taxpayers. Many noted that they pay taxes on the recreational vehicles at issue. Officials explained the proposed change to the ordinance would clear up the difference between the town code and police regulations on parking such vehicles. Zoning Administrator Laura O'Dell said that she cannot enforce the town code as the ordinances currently read because the police rules allow a person to park an RV on any piece of land.
Town code already bars the parking of recreational vehicles in the front yards.
O'Dell told council and the audience the proposed rules sought not to bar residents from having recreational vehicles. Rather, the ordinance would delineate where and how many a resident could keep on their property. As O'Dell showed in a diagram, a small lot of about 7,500 square feet may have 22 percent of the area covered by a house, a shed and a driveway. As proposed, the ordinance would count recreational vehicles into the total percentage of space covered by impervious surfaces. Depending on the zoning of the property, an owner could cover up to 30 percent of the lot, which could include the recreational vehicles.
Most of the people who spoke at the beginning of the session expressed opposition to the proposed rules on the recreational vehicles. Some noted that they use their recreational vehicles often but then store them on driveways or in the rear of the lots.
However, the town received many complaints from residents about neighbors who had been parking numerous recreational vehicles such as campers and boats in the side or rear yards. A man in the audience said that even parking such vehicles in a back yard can be seen by the neighbor behind that lot. He also expressed concern that such vehicles could "be a trap for children," given that they have refrigerator doors and propane tanks. RV owners in the audience said they usually locked up the propane and the doors.
A majority of the council endorsed the proposed smoking ban on town property, such as the swimming pool and the playground. However, as Councilwoman Sarah Mauck pointed out, the ordinance also bans people from smoking in their cars while parked in the swimming pool lot. Rex said that technically she would be in violation. But several council members said they would rather see the town step up its enforcement of litter laws to make sure smokers did not toss the cigarette butts on the ground, instead of telling people where they can and cannot smoke.