A single citation for parking a recreational vehicle in the town’s right of way in a quiet Payson neighborhood set in motion an avalanche of protests that rumbled into the council chambers last week.
Residents crowded into the council meeting to object to the enforcement of a town ordinance that in theory bans parking trailers and RVs in the town’s right-of-way, which often extends back 12 feet from the curb into what some people thought were their front yards.
After listening to 20 minutes of protests, the council decided unanimously to refer the question to the Planning and Zoning Department to consider whether the town should modify a widely ignored provision of the town code that’s been on the books for 40 years.
After one neighbor complained, three people living in one Payson neighborhood received citations for parking trailers in the town right-of-way.
Neighbors responded by driving all over town and documenting about 50 examples in which trailers or RVs intrude on the town right-of-way, usually bare dirt behind a curb or sidewalk. In some cases, property owners had spent money to put in gravel or pour a concrete pad, in some cases not sure whether the bare ground was actually part of their yard.
Tom Gosard said, “We wish the council will reconsider (the restriction). We’ve lived 15 years in Payson and we park our RV alongside the street. It has a cover on it. But we’re off the street and out of the line of sight. We’re retired and living on a fixed income and we really can’t afford to pay storage fees.”
Tom Russell said, “We love Payson. It’s such a relaxed place to live.” But he added that he lives on top of a hill and the only place he can park his trailer is just off the road at the foot of the hill on a gravel pad he installed, which turned out to be on the town’s right-of-way.
Greg Ginter said he had taken photos of at least 50 RVs all around town parked at least partially in the public right-of-way, including a trailer in front of a rental house owned by Town Attorney Tim Wright. He also said he photographed a trailer in the right-of-way alongside the home of the person who filed the original complaint. He estimated that strictly enforcing the law townwide might result in 600 citations.
“At first we thought it was just our problem and wondered ‘why are they picking on us?’ But we’ve discovered it is a townwide phenomenon. It goes back more than 40 years. It raises lots of questions and it can get really ugly.”
He said one 83-year-old neighbor, who is an Air Force veteran has three trailers parked alongside the street at his house and “all of a sudden he receives an eviction notice.”
Don Morris said he spent $3,000 putting in an RV parking pad on land he thought he owned, only to discover it was actually town right-of-way, well back from the curb. “I built the pad on land I thought I owned, only to find that there’s no consistent size of right-of-way.”
Town Engineer LaRon Garrett said Payson adopted the ban on parking trailers in the 1970s. The town code says trailers “shall be parked only in the residential yard and not on any street.” However, the code also says the street “includes the land between the right-of-way lines whether improved or unimproved and may comprise pavement, shoulders, curbs, gutters, sidewalks, parking areas and lawns.”
Garrett said a review had revealed “numerous” violations of the current code.
The council listened sympathetically, then punted — referring the controversy to the planning commission.