Centennial approves residential parking time limit

More controversial proposed rule on RV parking failed in September

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Ending — at least for now — a debate Centennial has grappled with as far back as a decade or more, city council approved a parking time limit of 14 days in residential areas and rejected a restriction on RV parking.

“It's difficult for us to make these decisions because some of you are feeling like we're interfering with your freedom,” Councilmember Kathy Turley said at the council's Oct. 7 meeting. “But we've been talking about this for even more than 10 years.”

The 14-day time limit for parking cars in neighborhoods passed on a 7-2 vote, with Councilmembers Ken Lucas and Ron Weidmann voting “no.”

Before that, a more controversial proposal that would have changed rules for off-street parking of RVs, trailers and cars failed on Sept. 16. Councilmember Mike Sutherland wanted to move the ordinance forward, but no other councilmember supported that motion.

That proposal would have generally required off-street parking of any kind of vehicle to be on concrete or asphalt — whether on a driveway or other parking surface — on front, side or back yards.

RVs and trailers are allowed to park on the street for up to 48 hours at a time — with at least 24 hours in between — based on a law the council passed in 2017. Under that ordinance, “RV” means a motor home or camping trailer, and “trailer” also includes utility and boat trailers.

For on-street parking, RVs and trailers must be parked in front of — and on the same side of the street as — the home of the registered owner of the vehicle. 

In recent years, the city has received complaints from residents regarding the amount of parking in neighborhoods, the “negative impact it may have on their property” and the ability to “maintain an attractive streetscape,” according to a September report by Centennial city staff.

“Unfortunately, it's just a few egregious situations in our city that have caused us to get to this point,” Turley said.

Not barring routine drivers

Residents have complained about people parking in neighborhoods they don't live in, not being able to get their carpets cleaned because of cars in front of homes and even people selling cars and “using the street as their sales lot,” Mayor Stephanie Piko said during the meeting.

Enforcement of the 14-day rule for cars would be complaint-based, meaning it would take people reporting possible violations to the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office. It's difficult to prove the amount of time a car has sat in one spot without moving, said Glenn Thompson, public safety bureau chief for the sheriff's office.

“It'd be up to the deputies to make contact with the complainant” and likely speak with the car's owner to determine what the situation is, Thompson said at the meeting.

Multiple residents who spoke at the meeting — which included a public hearing on the 14-day rule — asked that the language of the proposal be tweaked to clarify that it only applies to cars that are continuously parked, fearing it would bar people who go to work every day and return to the same parking spot.

The council made that change when approving the rule. For instance, if a person drives a car to work, the store or elsewhere in that two weeks, a new 14-day period begins.

But if a car reaches the time limit, seven consecutive days must pass in which the car must remain off the street and on private property, said Steve Greer, Centennial’s community development director.

'Aesthetic value'

The more contentious debate about RV parking involved perceived problems with neighborhood image.

“The intrusion of the RV into the front yard has a negative connotation for neighborhoods: the aesthetic value of an RV may be interpreted to be less than a landscaped and orderly front yard,” a city staff report from 2010 read.

That report also notes that RVs can impede pedestrians' paths on sidewalks, cast shadows that increase ice buildup during winter and block visibility from nearby driveways and streets.

The proposal that failed this September would have required off-street paved space for any parking — car, motorcycle, snowmobile, boat, trailer, camper, house-trailer or “similar mode of wheeled transportation” — to only take up a certain percentage or portion of the total yard area, generally.

Because of the existing 48-hour limit for on-street parking for recreational vehicles, such vehicles generally would have had to comply with that proposed rule.

There was more: For back yards, generally, vehicles would have needed to be “behind a solid sight screening fence or within a fully enclosed and lawfully existing permanent structure or building.” That could not include “tarps, car covers or other similar means of concealment.”

The city has existing regulations that address vehicles that are abandoned or inoperable, including due to lack of valid registration or plates or a lack of functioning, according to city staff at the Oct. 7 meeting.

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