Council settles truck parking issue

Published 5:07 pm Sunday, May 17, 2015

AHOSKIE – After July 1, the parking of trucks weighing over eight tons (16,000 pounds) in residential neighborhoods in the town of Ahoskie could be met with a fine.

The Ahoskie Town Council, at their monthly meeting on Tuesday voted to repeal the town ordinance, Section 38-139, which prohibits the parking of semi-trucks within residential districts.  The same vote also amended the ordinance to reflect current vehicle weights and classifications; as well as to grandfather in Hall’s Trucking on Catherine Creek Road, where a semi is parked under a canopy at their residence.

The vote was 4-1 with Councilman Maurice Vann casting the lone dissenting vote.

The enforcement of the ordinance first came before Council in October of last year when one town resident, L.R. Bishop, was approved to park their semi-truck on their own property located just off a marked truck route.  This temporary approval was extended all the way to Tuesday’s Council meeting.

During the intervening months the issue progressed without the town’s governing body making a definitive decision on how, why, and to whom the parking of these vehicles would apply.

In November, Ahoskie Police Chief Troy Fitzhugh, at Council’s direction, found there are no municipalities within 50 miles of Ahoskie that allows semi-truck parking in a residential district. The Chief recommended the ordinance prohibiting such parking be enforced.

At the December meeting, Council recommended that the ordinance be changed to allow semi-truck parking in residential neighborhoods as long as the neighborhood was located along a truck route.  City Attorney Buddy Jones drafted an amendment to the ordinance reflecting Council’s request.  Jones also informed Council any changes in the town ordinance must go through a public hearing, and one was scheduled for the January’s Council meeting

In January, Council was provided a draft Ordinance stating no overnight parking in residential districts except taxpayers residing on a truck route on their own property.  The same trucks could not contain hazardous materials, affect the visibility of motorists, and must be reasonably shielded from the view of neighbors.

February brought data to Council on what constitutes a truck, truck weight limits, and a recommendation to grandfather in the trucks now parked on Catherine Creek Road, which had parked there prior to the adoption of the ordinance in 1976; but still no vote on the recommendation was taken.

In March, with word of more semis being parked at various Ahoskie residential locations, a motion was made to keep the original ordinance Sec. 38-139, but the vote split 2-2 with Councilman Rev. C. David Stackhouse absent from that meeting.  The deciding no vote was cast by Mayor Brien Lassiter and the issue was again continued.

April’s meeting brought Council’s decision to schedule a recommended public hearing for May, and a moratorium on enforcement of the original ordinance continued.

At Tuesday’s public hearing, no citizens commented on the recommendations of repeal or amendment before the hearing was closed and Council discussed the proposed action.

Town Manager Tony Hammond said the attorney had revised some of the language of the new proposal which, in essence, reads: no truck larger than a (US Department of Transportation Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) Class 4 (14,000-to-16,000 pounds) shall be parked in any residential district overnight; and, that no truck exceeding 16,000 pounds or Class 4 capacity shall park for longer than two hours at any one time on any streets or parts of streets designated from time to time by the Town Council, and then only for the purpose of loading or unloading. A schedule of those streets would be kept on file in the Town Clerk’s office.

Attorney Jones suggested the Council approve an effective date of July 1 for the amended ordinance to take effect.

“The way the ordinance was (written) to start with there’re probably 100 more violations that really shouldn’t be violations because they could mean a pickup truck that somebody uses for transportation,” said Jones.

Stackhouse then made a motion to approve the Police Chief and Council staff recommendation – in essence repealing the current ordinance Sec. 38-139 that had been in effect since 1976.  The motion was seconded by Councilwoman Linda Blackburn.

“Do you want part of that to include the issuing of warning tickets for the next 30 days,” asked Mayor Lassiter.

“That would give people advance notice that wouldn’t affect them in a financial way,” concurred Jones.

Following the addendum of the issuance of warning tickets, Council closed discussion and voted on the motion; which passed by the majority vote.