An ordinance to ban camping trailers and other large vehicles from parking on public streets near South Park won unanimous approval from Lawrence city commissioners Tuesday night, despite accusations the city was unfairly targeting a pair of long-term campers.
“This is a public safety issue in my mind,” said City Commissioner Mike Amyx. “Staff should be commended for coming up with a solution.”
City commissioners were told by their assistant city attorney that the city had received complaints about two large, camperlike vehicles that are routinely parked on the west side of Massachusetts Street near South Park. Specifically, residents had raised concerns about the large vehicles blocking the lines of sight for pedestrians trying to use a nearby crosswalk.
But Michael Tanner, one of two individuals who routinely parks a camper along South Park, said the commission’s motives were much more about removing individuals they found objectionable.
“City workers should just be doing their jobs and not worrying about us and our pursuit of freedom,” said Tanner, who is a street musician who frequently performs downtown.
Tanner accused city workers and officials of harassing him while he slept in his homemade camper by driving by and honking their horns or directing sprinklers in the park to spray his camper on the street.
City commissioners, as they must with all ordinances, are required to approve the ordinance on “second reading” at an upcoming meeting before the law will take effect. Tanner asked commissioners to hold another public hearing on the ordinance at next week’s meeting before giving final approval to the parking prohibition. Tanner was late to Tuesday’s meeting, and he did not make his comments to commissioners until after they already had voted on the issue.
Commissioners did hear from one resident who said her concerns went beyond the two vehicles blocking the view of pedestrians.
“I always wonder what is in that bucket,” said Jane Pennington, who referred to a bucket that routinely hangs off the back of one of the two campers. “I think the impression those vehicles gives to visitors driving through our community does not win us any favors.”
The ordinance, once given final approval, would make it illegal to park camping trailers, recreational vehicles and other similar vehicles of a certain size in the public parking places along several city streets that abut South Park. Specifically, the ordinance will prohibit camping-oriented vehicles in spots on: Massachusetts Street between 11th and South Park streets; South Park Street from Vermont to New Hampshire streets; and Vermont Street from South Park to 11th streets.
The ordinance would allow for a $50 fine each day. After a second offense, the city would be authorized to tow the vehicle.
In other news, commissioners:
• Received a presentation on the U.S. 40 and K-10 Area Transportation Plan. The plan recommended both traffic signals and turn lanes be added to the Sixth Street and SLT intersections. Spokesmen with the Kansas Department of Transportation and with the private consulting firm hired to conduct the study, BG Consultants, said traffic during peak afternoon hours was beginning to stack up on the entrance ramps and threatened to stretch onto the freeway.
Mike Moriarty, a KDOT manager, said he anticipated the department would seek funding for the traffic signals and the turn lanes in the next two years. The project is estimated to have a construction cost of $1.5 million.
• Unanimously agreed to start the process to rezone property at the northwest corner of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway for a possible youth fieldhouse/recreation center.
The city’s planning staff is recommending commercial zoning for the 146 acres at the corner, about 50 of which would be used for the recreation center. Tuesday’s action allows the rezoning request to be heard by the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission in May.