Despite an avalanche of letters and protests at town meetings, a controversial ordinance meant to control parking at rental properties was approved by voters at the July 12 Town Meeting.
The new rules were originally approved by the Town Council on May 10, but the Town Meeting was called in response to a petition with 228 signatures from residents opposed to the ordinance as infringing on property owners’ rights.
The vote Monday to uphold the Town Council’s decision was 218-108.
The vote followed about an hour of discussion during which Councilman Peter Kochenburger said the council unanimously supports the ordinance, in part, because rental properties really are businesses.
“…it’s not an issue of private property, per se, it’s a question of regulating business,” he said, and noted that other commercial properties also need to submit parking plans.
Supporters said the ordinance addresses a public safety issue because it will limit parking and prohibit plans that require tenants to back out of driveways.
David Morse, a landlord, said he supports the ordinance because it “fosters good practice and stable neighborhoods,” and landlords opposed to it are “motivated … by greed.”
The parking rules take effect immediately, but there will be a lag when it comes to enforcement so that rental property owners who are affected by the ordinance have time to complete required plans and submit them for review.
The ordinance applies to one, two- and three-unit homes that are rented, within the Rental Certification Zone.
Mansfield Director of Planning Gregory Padick said 290 properties currently fall under the ordinance, which requires adequate parking for tenants and guests. (See related story also published today, “Mansfield’s new off-street parking rules effective immediately.”)
He said the ordinance requires a minimum of two spaces per unit and limits the total number of spaces for such properties to six.
Owners need to submit parking plans to the town and face fines if they do not comply, while tenants can face fines of $90 if they violate an approved parking plan.
Therese John, a real estate agent, said some of the “worst offenders” in town are students living in houses owned by their parents and not one by a landlord.
She asked whether that would be considered a rental property.
Padick said an owner with at least a 50-percent interest in the house must live in the house for at least half the year, so the student would need to own the house.
Others opposed the ordinance because they saw parking as more of a blight issue and the town already has ordinances in place to address blighted properties.
But supporters said the new parking ordinance will give the town firmer regulations to deal with parking.
Some opponents, meanwhile, said the bill unfairly attacked certain groups of people, mostly landlords renting to University of Connecticut students.
Paul Stearn, an Ashford resident who owns a rental property near UConn, said he supports what the ordinance seeks to accomplish, but said the regulation will create “two groups of people who do not have the same rights.”
At the town council’s meeting that followed the Town Meeting, Councilman Antonia Moran said one question that wasn’t clarified during the town meeting was the issue of elderly residents who put their homes into a trust or hand ownership to a relative.
She said a town attorney said the elderly resident does not pay rent, so those properties would not fall under the ordinance.
Posted July 13, 2010, as edited by HTNP.com Editor Brenda Sullivan