Truck parking moratorium remains

Published 4:35 pm Sunday, March 15, 2015

AHOSKIE – The big wheels will keep on rolling, and for another month, at least, they may also still be parked on residential property.

At its regular monthly meeting Tuesday the Ahoskie Town Council declared a moratorium on any changes in the town’s current Ordinance which would have prevented the parking of semi-truck parking in neighborhoods within the town limits

Tuesday marked the fourth straight month of discussion, and the third time the topic was on the Council agenda.

“The only difference from our February meeting is we’ve pulled a little more information from the state website on the detriment of bringing 18-wheelers into residential neighborhoods,” said Town Manager Tony Hammond.  “The issue we’re continuing to have is parking (the semis) on their property located off a truck route; and this is the third or fourth month that we have not made a decision.”

Hammond said that because of Council’s inaction in either enforcing or amending Ordinance 138-39, there has been an increase of 18-wheelers being parked in residential neighborhoods.

“It’s still the (Ahoskie Police) Chief (Fitzhugh) and my recommendation that we do not approve this waiver and continue to enforce our current Ordinance and prohibit the parking of 18-wheelers in residential neighborhoods.”

CountyAttorney W.H. “Buddy” Jones presented the new, amended Ordinance to Council for review.  It states there will be no parking in residential areas overnight, except tax payers residing on a truck route may park a truck (including tractor and trailer) entirely on their own lot, providing there is no hazardous material on the truck, no maintenance is done, it does not affect the visibility of motorists, and is parked by vegetation that shields it from the view of neighbors.

Councilwoman Linda Blackburn asked if there was some way to pursue a special parking area for the trucks.

“There has to be something,” Blackburn implored. “I can’t believe we couldn’t spend some time thinking on this, we’ve spent four months talking about it; just the fact we could at least pursue looking at something.”

Councilwoman Elaine Myers said she has noticed increased truck parking on Academy Street in town across from the Tomahawk Motel, and also an area on NC-42 southwest of the town limits.

Councilman Charles Freeman questioned what to do with those truckers who have structures in place for over 30 years who are parking their trucks under these shelters.

“Are we going to tell them they can no longer park their vehicles on their property,” he asked, citing the canopy for Hall’s trucking located on Catherine Creek Road.

“He parks not only the tractor, but the trailer,” Freeman said, “and the canopy has been there for a large number of years.  We either have to grandfather in something, or we go with the notion the County Attorney has brought up where if you live on a truck route; and are we saying you have to own the property, or can you be a renter according to the Ordinance that is currently on our books.”

Jones suggested changing the language in the amendment from “tax payers” to “citizens” or “persons”.

“If we passed this, it (the language) would make it clearer,” Jones replied.

Myers stated new issues could arise in the changing of the original Ordinance.

“I understand what you’re saying if we maybe we’re not enforcing it, but we’re mixing residential and commercial,” Myers said. “We’re talking about a place with noise, about roads being torn up, about enforcement, and about looking at the whole.  We have to represent the whole and not a part.”

With that, Myers made a motion to follow the recommendation of the Town Manager and the Police Chief and go with the original Ordinance; it was seconded by Blackburn.

Discussion continued with the Chief indicating that he had been made aware that Hall’s Trucking had been grandfathered in when the Ordinance was passed by the Town Council in the 1970’s; thus exempting his business from committing a municipal violation.

Fitzhugh presented the original Ordinance and read it before Council.  His reading revealed in the language of the Ordinance that no truck exceeding three-fourths of a ton capacity shall park on any street except for the purpose of loading and unloading cargo, dated 1976.

A citizen asked if that included service trucks and that led to asking if current trucking businesses could be grandfathered in.

“Unless they’d been parking there before ’76, they couldn’t be considered ‘grandfathered’,” said Mayor Brien Lassiter.

Freeman suggested tabling a decision once more until there was evidence of which trucks and/or trucking businesses had been grandfathered in with an exemption as per the ’76 Ordinance.

More discussion centered on size and weight of trucks on the roads since 1976, if large vehicles included school buses, and if the grandfather clause was reversible.

“That’s a slippery slope,” said Jones. “If you grandfather anything, it would have to be what happened after 1976.”

After Freeman read off a list of locations within the town where trucks are now parked, Hammond reminded Council it was a question of enforcing the Ordinance.

“Most of those have been parking there since October when we told the Chief not to start enforcing this until we figured out what we were going to do,” said Hammond. “So what they’ve had is a six month break on something they shouldn’t have been doing to begin with.”

Councilman Maurice Vann suggested neighborhood associations that would come up with their own individual community rules.

“Some people might not have a problem with it,” Vann said. “It’s just one of those things that you deal with.”

When discussion ended, Council voted on Myers’ motion to keep the Ordinance and the vote was split 2-2 with Myers and Blackburn voting for the Ordinance and Vann and Freeman voting against. Councilman Rev. C. David Stackhouse was absent from the meeting.

Lassiter was left to cast the deciding vote, but he made a statement beforehand.

“I think Section 38-139 is antique and old and needs to be addressed on the weight limit, and it needs some work,” the Mayor said. “So I’m going to vote in opposition.”

The mayor’s vote meant continuing the moratorium until a new, revised, better, or more accommodating Ordinance is approved.

Freeman then made a motion to continue the moratorium until more information is provided to Council, seconded by Vann and the motion passed unanimously.  Hammond agreed to provide more information prior to the Council retreat which is scheduled for Mar. 13-14.

So for at least another month the issue remains unresolved.