Parking gripe prompts debate over work truck restrictions

Port officials hesitant to regulate where work vehicles can be parked
By 
KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Ozaukee Press staff

Should people be able to park their commercial vehicles in residential areas of Port Washington?

That was the question debated by the City of Port Washington Plan Commission last week.

Kent Olson, 379 E. Whitefish Rd., told the commission his neighbor parks his work truck, which has a crane and ladder mounted on it, at the back of his lot, in a driveway next to the lot line. 

A fence separates the properties, Olson said, but doesn’t hide the truck from view.

“It’s just kind of unsightly,” he said. “When we sit on the deck, when we sit in the family room, this is what we see.

“Newer subdivisions probably have covenants against this. We really have no protection against what our neighbor puts in.”

While Olson found a sympathetic audience in the commission, members also expressed concern for those who bring their work vehicles home with them.

“We are a blue-collar town,” commission member Tony Matera said. “We have a lot of contractors with trailers, and I’m sympathetic to them. 

“That’s a slippery slope. I empathize with Mr. Olson, but I don’t think we can limit it.”

Ald. Paul Neumyer, a member of the commission, said many people have to bring their work trucks home, saying they are dispatched to job sites from home.

“I would have a tough time impacting someone who has to bring their truck home,” he said.

“We do have a lot of people who work out of their homes,” commission member Brenda Fritsch added.

Similar situations exist throughout the community, Mayor Marty Becker, the commission chairman, said.

“I have had stuff in my neighborhood parked on the street for an extended amount of time,” he said. “I feel for Mr. Olson. I understand his point. It’s unsightly.”

But, Becker said, the vehicle is used by the neighbor for work.

Neumyer asked whether Olson had discussed the matter with his neighbor, and Olson said he had not because he didn’t want the potential for a confrontation.

“One of the nice things about living in Port is Port’s full of nice people,” Matera said. “Maybe he doesn’t realize it’s an eyesore.”

Fritsch noted that the neighbor may be parking his truck in the driveway at the back of the lot to try and hide it from view, noting that it would likely be visible to more people if it were parked on the street.

“I know he’s not doing this intentionally to bother us,” Olson said.

Port Washington’s ordinances allow commercial vehicles of less than 15,000 pounds to park in residential areas if they are a person’s work vehicle, Bob Harris, the city’s director of planning and development, said.

Cedarburg has no rules addressing the issue, he said, nor does Grafton — although Grafton’s ordinances don’t allow outdoor displays, storage or use of land nor any change in the outside appearance of a building, accessory structure or premises,” he added.

Wauwatosa only allows these vehicles to be parked in a garage, Harris said, adding commercial vehicles are defined as those affixed with a commercial sign, typically used for commercial purposes, having commercial or truck registration or exceeding 5,000 pounds.

Ald. Deb Postl told the commission that vehicles like the one referenced by Olson “can be very unsightly. If that was parked next door to my house, I’d have a problem.”

She asked the commission to allow her to work with Harris on a more neighborhood-friendly ordinance, something members agreed to, with Becker adding that he will also participate in the process.

“I’m willing to listen and hear the alternatives,” commission Ron Voigt said, adding that he does not want to be too restrictive.

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