No decision on in-town semi-truck parking

Published 8:32 am Thursday, February 19, 2015

AHOSKIE – Despite its third straight month of discussion, and second time on the Council agenda, the Ahoskie Town Council still has made no decision on semi-truck parking in residential neighborhoods within the town limits.

The Council voted to table the matter for at least another month.

Back in October, L.R. Bishop discussed with Council during public input about parking the semi-truck he owns for his trucking business in the yard at his residence of 702 West Street North in Ahoskie.  Bishop told Council at that time that he parks the truck in his backyard.

At the same meeting, Police Chief Troy Fitzhugh stated that the curbing of Bishop’s driveway was removed enabling him to park his truck in the yard, but that the Ahoskie P.D. had also received complaints about the truck being parked in Bishop’s back yard because the location was not in a business area.

Mayor Brien Lassiter at the time asked Ahoskie Code Enforcement Officer Paul Vaughan if there were an ordinance pertaining to over three ton vehicles being parked on the street. While Vaughan said he was unfamiliar with such an ordinance, he promised to look into it.

Town Manager Tony Hammond informed Council he did not believe the town had an ordinance that states whether a truck can or cannot be parked on a residence area.  Town Attorney Buddy Jones offered that he did not see a legal issue concerning this matter.

Earlier in the discussion, Council Member Linda Blackburn said there had been concerns some years ago about the noise of the large semi trucks and later she suggested that some research should be done to see what other area towns and cities are doing involving the truck parking issue in their residential areas.

Bishop, in the meantime, was granted permission to keep parking the truck in his yard pending research since their residence is located on a truck route.

A follow-up of the topic at the December Council meeting saw Hammond inform the members that since the initial discussion in October, the Bishops had continued to park the truck at their residence, and that Chief Fitzhugh had checked on similar ordinances with other towns within a 50-mile radius of Ahoskie.

Fitzhugh said he’d received replies only a smattering of replies, among them from Plymouth, Weldon and Roanoke Rapids, and that for two towns that replied: Murfreesboro and Rich Square, no ordinances were established. The responding towns said their town ordinance regarding truck parking was much the same as Ahoskie’s.

“They spoke about not having tractor-trailers within 300 feet of a residential area, and having similar type enforcement in their towns,” Fitzhugh said.  “Not only is the enforcement in driving in residential areas but also in getting to their point of designation if they (trucks) had to go through a residential area.

The Chief said he supported maintaining Ordinance Section 138-39 as written. The ordinance strictly prohibits the parking of a semi truck in a residential district.  Fitzhugh went on to cite an incident of a semi driving behind Vidant Roanoke-Chowan Hospital recently and doing damage to a light pole and power lines that cut off electricity to nearby residences.

“And the truck never stopped,” the Chief said.

“What we’re looking at is where would the other people park at and what other towns have said is that they would park at abandoned property such as on Academy Street near the Tomahawk Restaurant which is closed down,” Fitzhugh stated.

The Chief said he was concerned with damage to personal property, but said his main concern was for public safety.

Fitzhugh went on to defend the Bishops as neighbors, saying he resides in the same neighborhood; even adding that his and the Bishop children have played together in the same backyard where the truck is now parked.

“We’re not talking about bad people,” he emphasized.

The discussion continued with Councilman Rev. C. David Stackhouse suggesting parking on city property adjacent to the old Armory, which would allow for maintaining the ordinance.

“It’s fenced in, and it belongs to the town,” Stackhouse noted.

Councilman Charles Freeman cited a huge private property area on US-13 Business and North Academy Street just prior to Modlin Road.

“I don’t think the town could allow something to be parked without there being a fee of some sort where anyone who wanted to park could pay the fee and then park,” Freeman suggested.  “If it’s in the yard, and if it is not endangering anyone, and they are in the trucking business, until they expand to where they need more space, I really don’t know why they can’t park on their own property.”

Blackburn again expressed concern over the loud engine noise of the semis particularly during the evening hours, but was told that the street where the vehicle is parked is designated a truck route.

Hammond also reminded Council that any proposed changes in the town ordinance must first go through a public hearing.

In speaking to the town granting the Bishops permission to park on their property, Mayor Lassiter said Hall’s Trucking parks under a canopy off Holloman Avenue near the old R.L. Vann School, and had been parking there since before the ordinance went into effect in 1976.

“I understand safety and it’s really no different than driving our cars down the street,” Lassiter said.

Fitzhugh informed Council there had been one inquiry regarding truck parking in a residential area in the last month and that he had postponed a response until he was aware of a decision from Council.

Attorney Jones suggested amending the ordinance so that semi trucks may be parked on their own property if the residence is on a truck route.

“One tractor trailer on their own property where it doesn’t obscure views or hurt anybody,” Jones said.

Councilman Maurice Vann suggested Council might amend the ordinance after a public hearing was held at the January Council meeting.

Fire Chief Ken Dilday cautioned Council about trucks that haul hazardous materials and how that might impact neighboring residences.

Following discussion, a motion was made to set a public hearing for the January Council meeting and that the Bishop’s be allowed to continue to temporarily park their semi on their own property while the issue is still unresolved.

The public hearing was held in January regarding an amendment to Section 38-139 which states parking will be prohibited in residential districts except semi tractor-trailers parked entirely on property owned by those taxpayers on their own property if said property is on a truck route.

“No maintenance shall be performed on the truck or trailer,” read Lassiter. “Visibility of motorists shall not be affected and the truck or trailer shall be shielded from the view of neighbors by vegetation.”

Freeman inquired if one must own the property on which the tractor-trailer could be parked or if the truck owner could be a renter and Attorney Jones said one must be a property owner.

Hammond emphasized that the property location must be a marked, designated truck route.

As the public hearing seemed to leave to pertinent questions for members to consider, a motion was made to table the amendment until further research could be done.

Hammond re-emphasized his support for not changing Section 38-139 and that the request to park the semi truck in a residential neighborhood be denied.  He did, however, indicate that the town public works department had ordered signs for all truck routes in the town.

Stackhouse said he was not ready to approve or disapprove the ordinance amendment – which would require another public hearing – or disapprove it, and end any further action on the current request.

Councilwoman Elaine Myers said there was not enough information on how the amendment to the ordinance would affect the future of the town.

“We hear what you say, we know it’s your livelihood,” Myers said. “But at the same time, what are we opening here and we need to know more before we can close our conscience.”

Blackburn, who chaired the meeting as Mayor Pro Tem in the absence of Lassiter, asked if there were other means to acquire public opinion.

Hammond suggested, among other options, placing it on the town’s website:

Stackhouse then made a motion, seconded by Myers, that the topic be tabled until the March council meeting when more information might be available.