Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Ban the Monster Trucks!

I had one reaction when I heard about County Council Member Mike Knapp’s new bill prohibiting large trucks from parking in residential neighborhoods: it’s about time! Just look below to see why.

This fearsome charter bus has been the source of much conflict in my neighborhood. Yes, this is the same neighborhood mentioned in the Post article, but since I live here and they do not, I have the pictures! The above monster bus is owned and parked by a resident on the street outside of his single-family home. It is a giant monolith that dominates the block. The woman across the street keeps the curtains in her living room shut because if she opened them, this would be her view – her only view. But for all the wars fought by the neighbors to eject the lumbering mastodon, they have been stymied by one fact – it is perfectly legal under current law for the owner to park it where it is.

Want more? For years, a boat was parked in the street only two blocks away from the above monster bus. The boat was left there for so long that it sank into the asphalt. Lord only knows what it took to get it out.

One reason why many of these vehicles are parked in neighborhoods is that their owners are running businesses out of their homes. That’s legitimate so long as the business use does not infringe on the residential character of the neighborhood. (The Montgomery County Board of Appeals regulates business locations in residential areas through its issuance of special exceptions.) But some types of businesses, especially ones engaged in heavy industrial activities, simply do not belong in residential neighborhoods.

My own industry, construction, is an example. Many contractors operate their record-keeping operations out of their houses. So far, so good. But when they park heavy vehicles on residential streets and use their backyards as material storage sites, that’s an issue. They may protest that compelling them to use commercial parking is an unreasonable business expense. But their competitors can and do maintain commercial lots, sheds and storage facilities and pay for them through overhead markups on their bids. By using neighborhoods as industrial parking lots, some contractors are gaining an unfair cost advantage over their competitors at the expense of their residential neighbors. Mike Knapp’s bill would put a stop to it.

There should not be a civic association in the county that should not favor this bill. So go ahead and write the council! As for me, I am going to tell the poor lady on the back end of the above monster bus that she may someday be able to see the sun again.

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