A time-honored tradition is under attack by the city of Little Rock.
If city leaders and a cast of neighborhood do-gooders get their way, it will no longer be legal in the city limits to park one's car in one's front yard. Even if it isn't on blocks and runs just fine.
A draft ordinance cites drainage issues and minimizing dusty roads, but not surprisingly, supporters say the real issue is aesthetic: Yards full of cars look junky, and tend to have large bald patches that turn into mud puddles every time it rains.
"If you have a pretty yard and the next house is ugly - we want an ordinance to keep that from happening," said Janelle Romandia, who lives in the Oak Forest neighborhood near the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. "We just don't want there being mud holes in the middle of the yard."
The city Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the ordinance at 4 p.m. June 17 at City Hall.
Plenty of other cities outlaw yard-parking, said Tony Bozynski, Little Rock's planning director. North Little Rock passed such an ordinance earlier this year that applies only to the historic Argenta district.
The issue has come up in Little Rock before as well, about six years ago, but didn't go anywhere. The recent effort started in March, when City Manager Bruce Moore visited an Oak Forest neighborhood watch meeting and a resident asked him when the city was going to do something.
A couple of months later, Mayor Jim Dailey and other city officials spent a day in a Southwest Little Rock neighborhood and got an eyeful, said Joan Adcock, a city director who lives in the area.
"You'll find all kinds of examples of people pulling right up to their front door and getting out," she said.
City Director Johnnie Pugh said she has a neighbor who appears to be running a used-car lot from his yard.
"This man, he had five cars and a truck on the north side and three cars in front of house," said Pugh, who represents the downtown area. "Then they looked inside his [backyard] fence and he had 10 cars in there too."
The Planning Commission probably will vote on the proposal at the June 17 meeting, said Dana Carney, the planning department staff member who drafted the ordinance.
From there it would go on to the mayor and the city Board of Directors, most likely in August, Carney said.
The ordinance would prohibit parking in a building's front yard and the side yard of corner lots. Cars would have to be parked in a paved driveway, or an unpaved driveway covered with gravel or something similar.
So how to enforce such a restriction in a city of 100,000 or so homes?
Because the ordinance would be part of the zoning code, violations would be treated like other zoning violations, Carney said. That means, in most cases, yard-parkers would only get in trouble if someone complained to the planning department. Someone from the department would then investigate and tell the offenders to park their cars somewhere else. If they didn't comply, the planning department would issue a citation and a summons to municipal court, where a judge could impose a fine of up to $500 a day until the problem was taken care of.
North Little Rock hasn't cited anyone yet under their ordinance, said David Schalchlin, supervisor of code enforcement for the city.
"We've not had any problem with it," he said. "Everybody's not parking in their yards."
Still, even though there's widespread support among the Little Rock's neighborhood associations for the ordinance, Romandia isn't holding her breath that it'll make much of a difference to people in her area. "You can put it right in front of their face and they don't do it," she said of other ordinances meant to spruce up the neighborhood. "The city's got so many [other] ordinances they don't enforce anyway."
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