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The Purpose of the Town Code

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The Purpose of the Town Code


by Ann Ferguson

The recent adoption of a law to prohibit parking in front yards, except on prepared surfaces, was supported by a majority of residents, but opposed by some. A look at the reason for this law, and others in the Town Code, may be helpful to all residents.

Most residents would never consider parking cars all over the front yards of their properties--I know I would not allow it at my home. However, in some neighborhoods that is exactly what was happening. When stepping out the front door of their homes, some residents were faced with small "used car" lots next door or across the street from them. Without a law to restrict the parking in front yards, there was no way to stop this practice and bad habits are often imitated so the problem could begin to invade all neighborhoods.

Illegal car repair shops are another matter we must pursue at some properties--often the same properties with multiple cars parked across the front yard. Residents may do simple car maintenance on their own property, however, major work such as hauling out an engine, working on the transmission or sanding and painting a vehicle must be done at an industrially zoned location--it is prohibited in a residential zone.

In rural areas, where properties are counted in multiple acres, restrictions on homeowners are few because neighbors are too distant to be impacted. In our town, most homes are on 1/6 of an acre lots so that bad habits of neighbors can be viewed with a glance out the window--day in and day out.

Another law in the Town Code requires that trash cans be stored to the rear of your home between pick-ups. It would seem reasonable to expect that would not be a problem--who wants a trash can sitting out front all year long. However, some residents found it convenient to just leave it at the front permanently. When neighbors see that occur and decide to do the same thing, the result is a street lined with trash cans and the downward slide towards deteriorating properties moves quickly.

High grass and weeds, firewood and other building materials laying on the ground and indoor furniture placed on porches or in yards are other violations of the Town Code based on health and welfare concerns. Rats look for harborage in such conditions and rats contribute to disease and decay. The District of Columbia is an example--a lack of enforcement of basic rules resulted in a rampant rat infestation problem across the city. Officials there are faced with conditions neglected so long it will take years to get under control.

Residents who respect their neighbors and do the right thing to maintain their properties sometimes are swept into compliance with laws enacted to correct a problem they did not cause. In the case of the front yard parking restriction, some residents whose cars have always been parked on a dirt driveway and never on the grass, will now have to convert that driveway to a prepared surface. It will require some outlay of money, but crushed stone or gravel on their driveway will meet the basic requirements of the law. I wish we could exempt those good neighbors from this new law, but we would then be charged with "selective enforcement".

Most of the towns and cities around us have added a front yard parking restriction to their codes. While I would prefer to delete laws from our Town Code, instead of adding them, we would then be powerless to protect our neighborhoods from bad habits which threaten them. (The front yard parking law will take effect on July 1, 2000.)

School Uniforms Up for a Vote

In April, parents of all children at Riverdale Elementary School will receive ballots to vote on the question of making uniforms a policy at the school. This policy has had a positive effect in other schools--improving grades and reducing behavior problems. Parents in favor must vote in favor and return their ballots or they will be counted as a "no" vote.

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This page was last changed on Thursday, May 4, 2000. Questions, comments, or submissions? See the Website Committee web page. This page has been accessed 4674 times.