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Big rigs rejected

MURFREESBORO – A public hearing was held here on Nov. 14 to discuss a proposed amendment to Murfreesboro’s truck parking ordinance. The proposal was submitted to address the issue of 18-wheeler trucks obstructing roads in neighborhoods within the town.

Mayor Hal Thomas read the ordinance up for consideration to those in attendance.

“No truck, defined as a motor vehicle with dual wheels and three or more axles, and/or any trailer pulled by such motor vehicle, shall be parked in the streets controlled by the Town in any neighborhood zoned residential, except for the purpose of loading and unloading and in any event not overnight,” Thomas read. “Each day shall constitute a separate offense.”

Thomas also noted the fine for violation would be $50.

The topic has long been the subject of discussion at Town Council meetings, but this is the first time they’ve proposed an ordinance to address the problem.

At last month’s meeting, Dr. Shirley Vinson shared her concerns about large trucks and trailers parked on the road in her neighborhood. Because the roads are narrow, the trucks obstruct the view and the flow of traffic in the area. Her main concern, she stated, was for the safety of the neighborhood children.

During Wednesday’s public hearing, Vinson said that in the time since she spoke at last month’s meeting, there have been continuing congestion issues with the trucks. Large trucks and trailers parked on both sides of the road, she said, impeded traffic for a school bus and a for neighbors trying to get home.

The proposed new ordinance, however, will not be effective in Vinson’s neighborhood which is located across the street from Riverview Elementary School. That area is outside of the town limits, even though it is still considered a part of Murfreesboro’s extra territorial jurisdiction (ETJ). The county would be responsible for regulating that area, and the Council plans to ask them to do so.

The only other person who volunteered to speak during the public hearing was Miguel Turner, a truck driver who would be affected by the new ordinance because he parks his vehicle on the street in front of his residence in town.

“I’m a truck driver. That is how I make my living. That’s how I take care of my family,” he stated.

Turner acknowledged there were some “irresponsible drivers” out there, but he said most take care to not cause problems for their neighbors. He explained he has kept his truck parked on the road for five years.

“I’ve yet to have any complaints,” he reported.

“I understand both sides,” he continued, but added he didn’t think all truck drivers living within the town limits should be punished.

Turner said he lives about an hour away from his place of employment, and if he could not keep his truck at his residence, he believed he would probably lose his job.

“Do you have any available property in your yard that your truck can be parked instead of in the street,” asked Council member Sarah Wallace.

Turner answered he did not.

With no one else volunteering to speak, Thomas closed the public hearing and called for a motion from the Council on the matter. Council member Billy Theodorakis motioned to adopt the ordinance. After a long pause, Wallace seconded.

Before the vote, Theodorakis explained his reasoning behind favoring the parking ordinance.

“We have to address the problem as a whole,” he said. “You can’t treat one person different than you’re going to treat this other person, no matter what neighborhood it is.”

Theodorakis continued, saying the ordinance was not meant to be a punishment for any one person. Neighborhoods, he emphasized, are not “commercial zones.”

Mayor Thomas also commented on the parking ordinance, noting it had been an issue in various parts of town for the past couple years.

“Without having something on the books, our police cannot go up and put a warning ticket on somebody’s vehicle that’s parked in the street where it shouldn’t be,” he said. “Residential streets were not laid out to hold all those big vehicles.”

Thomas called for a vote to adopt the new ordinance. The motion passed, though Council member Berna Stephens was the sole vote against it.

After the matter was settled, Theodorakis suggested the police hold off on enforcing the new ordinance to give truck drivers time to adjust and make different parking arrangements. Thomas said they would wait 30 days before beginning to enforce.