CITY SEEKS MORE CONTROL OVER PEOPLE PARKING ON LAWNS
JEREMY WALTNER – PUBLISHER
The city of Freeman last week held its first reading of a revised parking ordinance that aims to place stricter regulations on residents of Freeman who park their vehicles on the yards of their homes.
Meeting in regular session Wednesday night, May 5, the Freeman City Council discussed Ordinance No. 2021-05, which if approved would be included in the city’s zoning guidelines and limits where on private property residents can park.
“You can’t park on grass — pretty simple,” Mayor Michael Walter told The Courier after the meeting. “We have some problem areas and, between our new police chief who has done an outstanding job and our city attorney who does an outstanding job, we have a pretty good idea what to do about it.”
Walter said the Freeman Planning and Zoning Commission is also in support of the ordinance and recommending a second reading — and approval — at the city council’s next meeting on Tuesday, May 18. As with any change in a city ordinance, residents have 20 days from the legal publication of the ordinance (following the second reading) to petition the action and bring it to a public vote.
Ordinance No. 2021-05 does not deal with street-side parking, but rather on private property exclusively.
“To be clear, this has nothing to do with the boulevard parking between the sidewalk and the street,” said councilor Lonnie Tjaden, Freeman’s zoning administrator who is also part of the Planning and Zoning Commission. “That’s public property, so if you’re parking in front of your house now, you can park there yet. You don’t have to have cement or gravel or oil or nothing. This is strictly on private property.”
And while the revised zoning ordinance places restrictions on what is allowed, it also provides exceptions. Vehicles may be parked on private property, for example, if they are done so on a concrete or gravel pad approved by the Freeman City Council acting as the board of adjustment. It also allows residents living on residentially-zoned property to ask for an exception.
“The reason I think that this is very fair,” Walter told The Courier, “is because, let’s say someone has a trailer they want to put in their backyard. They can put down a gravel pad or get a conditional use permit.
“This just gives (the city) some control over what goes back there,” he continued. “Now, there’s a process.”
Just like any zoning regulation, those in violation would be subject to a $200 fine per offense; “Every day is an offense,” Tjaden said, who noted there is also an appeal process outlined in the city’s zoning bylaws.
In speaking with The Courier, Walter acknowledged that some won’t like the revised parking ordinance.
“Every ordinance you put in place is going to affect somebody,” he said. “But we’re trying to accommodate the most people in a fair way and I do believe this is what the people of Freeman want.”
Among those who do not support the ordinance is Charles Gering, a member of the Freeman City Council. Gering was outspoken about it at the May 5 meeting.
“You’re going to have one hell of a time getting me to ask permission to park on my yard,” he said. “That’s my yard. I bought it, I paid for it, it’s mine.
“If I wanted to live in a home-owners association area, I would move to Sioux Falls.”
And other councilors understood the point.
“I brought up the same thing (to the zoning board) that Charly’s bringing up now,” Tjaden said at last week’s meeting. “Individual property ownership is still something that’s very popular in the United States. But, at the same time, certain problem areas in town are certain problem areas in town and how do you take care of that? It’s very fine-lined.”
“I get the direction of where this is headed and the purpose of it,” said counselor Terry Jacobsen. “But I also agree with Charly that it’s infringing on people’s personal rights. You don’t want someone coming and telling you you can’t smoke in your yard. It’s a similar situation. It’s a gray area.”
Yet Jacobsen acknowledged that “this is also protection for people who rent property … to somebody who is continually going to park on the yard and destroy the property value of it.”
Said councilor Blaine Saarie: “It definitely has a purpose.”
Walter recommended that Fink be invited to the May 18 meeting to answer any questions before a second reading.
“This is a rather large ordinance affecting a lot of people,” he said, “so I would feel more comfortable having Mr. Fink sitting here so we can ask him questions.”
This is the second ordinance the city council is considering implementing this spring. Also at last week’s meeting, the council held the second and final reading of an ordinance limiting the type of fence that can be erected in city limits. That passed on a 4-1 vote, with Gering voting no.
The fence ordinance is published in its entirely on page 13B.
Councilor Doug Uecker told The Courier the new ordinance more clearly defines what a fence is, where one is allowed, but also falls under the city’s zoning regulations, which means the city’s zoning administrator has ultimate authority.
“That’s as big a step as anything,” he said.
Uecker told The Courier the new regulations are simply an effort to provide “clarity and uniformity” over the appearance of property in town.
“We’ve got to have the rule; we’ve got to have some control,” he said. “It’s very simple.”