Is a yard parking ordinance necessary?

By Travis McMullen Contributing Columnist

June 3, 2014

Don’t get me wrong: The Citizens for a Clean Sedalia have done a very good job. They’ve been cleaning up the city on the street level by spearheading a series of neighborhood cleanups and they’ve been cleaning up the city at large through their support of the downtown building inspection ordinance and other initiatives.

And I urge them to continue doing the right thing and drop consideration of a new ordinance that would outlaw yard parking on Broadway Boulevard, as reported by the City of Sedalia website:

“The Citizens for a Clean Sedalia citizens committee is reviewing the possibility of recommending legislation to the City Council that would prohibit front yard parking on Broadway.”

Limit Avenue is probably the street that sees the most visitor traffic, but there just aren’t enough private residences on Limit to bother with an ordinance. I understand why Broadway might be subject to additional scrutiny.

Yes, from Charlotte to Houston to Portland major cities all around the country have ordinances against yard parking and normally I’d generally argue in favor of initiatives that have taken hold in relevant, modern communities.

But I also don’t think that we should pass ordinances just to pass time.

I don’t see that there is a widespread yard parking problem in Sedalia. Sure, I’ve seen people do it when they’re working on some home improvements. I’ve seen it occasionally on a temporary basis. But the number of people who consistently yard park is so insignificant both in the city in general and on Broadway specifically that it seems like a waste of time to bother passing local legislation against it. There are comparably more gigantic fish to fry in the effort to clean up Sedalia.

I was going to visit the Missouri State Fair, but then I saw that someone had chosen to park on a different part of their private property so I turned right back around and went home, where we only park in designated areas!

When most people think of Broadway they probably think of the part of Broadway between Ohio and Limit avenues — that’s where some of the nicest, grandest and most historic homes in Sedalia are located. Diversity in architectural style, color, and material are on grand display in a few blocks of one of Sedalia’s most highly trafficked motorways.

And maybe if we’re lucky these visitors might assume the rest of Sedalia is filled with businesses and enviable homes. If their only point of reference is Broadway, then they probably have a pretty high opinion of Sedalia.

And we probably expect more of the people who own the homes on Broadway row then we do of their neighbors just one block back, because those people don’t happen to live on U.S. Highway 50. The pros must outweigh the cons, but I bet it can get annoying.

When your home is a display home merely because of its location it probably seems a little unfair. People are more nosy, inspectors are less forgiving and standards are higher. The fate of the city of Sedalia depends on your home and the image that it projects!

These homeowners are already subject to more scrutiny then most and we want to throw in additional considerations even though most of them aren’t actually contributing to that particular issue.

That is their land, and their grass and their vehicle and they should be able to arrange their possessions in any way that they see fit. Park on the grass, or under the grass — they should be able to park wherever they want on their property unless the city is willing to foot the bill for some new private parking spaces.

I know partly that an ordinance like this would be aimed at the people who live on Broadway and attempt to sell their vehicles by putting a sign in the window and parking it in the grass so that it can be read from the street. It’s not widespread, but it does happen.

Just imagine what visitors might think if they see that Sedalia is the sort of place where people buy and sell secondhand vehicles! Avert your eyes from the commerce!

If we must consider an ordinance like this, I hope they consider making it an offense based on an act over a period of time instead of an isolated incident. “It shall be unlawful for a vehicle to be parked on an unfinished surface for X amount of time” rather than just “it shall be unlawful.” There’s no reason to punish someone who backed the truck up to the door for the weekend to re-do their kitchen, or someone who had to park in the yard to pick up someone with limited mobility. If we absolutely must punish someone, let’s make sure it is the serious long-term offenders.