Every once in a while, city officials face a specific problem that requires a specific legal solution. Passing an ordinance to keep camping vehicles from taking up semipermanent residence around South Park is such a situation.
Tonight, city officials will consider a measure that will make it illegal to park camping trailers, recreational vehicles and other similar vehicles of a certain size in the public parking spaces on streets around South Park. Included are sections of Massachusetts, Vermont, 11th and South Park streets adjacent to both sections of the central-city park. The proposed ordinance calls for a $50-per-day fine; after a second offense the city would be authorized to tow the vehicle.
The ordinance is intended specifically to remove a couple of trailers that serve as permanent residences and regularly park in the area. One is a homemade wooden trailer that has been calling the park home since the middle of 2011. Its owner is a street musician who lives in the trailer and uses bathroom facilities in the Community Building. Although the trailer can be found parked on the west side of Massachusetts Street most of the time, the owner complies with the existing city ordinance that allows campers to be parked in nonresidential areas as long as they are moved from the spots at least once every 48 hours.
The people who are using Massachusetts Street as a trailer-camping spot may be complying with the letter of the law, but certainly not its intent. The vehicles are unsightly and detract from the ambience of the downtown park. Mayor Bob Schumm has asked city staff members to see whether there are other spots people could legally park their campers in the city for free, but he is right in saying that, “The city streets don’t owe them a long-term camping spot.”
The owner of the homemade trailer has objected to the ordinance, saying it is intended to disrupt his living arrangement. Well, that’s true. The problem is that his living arrangement creates a disruption for everyone who visits or drives by one of the city’s most pristine and historic public parks.
That is a legitimate concern for city officials and a legitimate cause for a new ordinance to deal with the situation.