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New RV code goes into effect

Residents limited on number of vehicles allowed on a property

A parking ordinance approved by Renton councilmembers, Dec. 9, changes the rules on cars, recreational vehicles and other vehicles parked in your yard. City staff have said previously that the roll out would be slow, to allow time to adjust to the new policy, giving residents one year before it goes into effect.

Before the ordinance, each property could have a maximum of four vehicles, of any kind, outside a garage, that had to be licensed and operable.

Now more than four vehicles can be parked, with an additional vehicle per licensed resident at the address, as long as the vehicle is registered to that address (And more can be added with an Additional Vehicles Permit). Also, no vehicles over 10,000 pounds can be on residential property, and no semi-trucks, cabs or tractor trailers, without an Additional Vehicles Permit. Only one commercial vehicle under 10,000 pounds can be parked on residential property without a permit.

Recreational vehicles (RVs) can be on the yard, in these permitted locations, in order of city preference. If not, they have be stored off-site:

•In garage or carport.

•In a side or backyard, with five feet from the property line if it is over eight feet tall.

•In a driveway parked five feet from property line, perpendicular to the street.

•In another location determined by the city or concealed with screening.

These locations can be subject to modifications if needed, staff said. All vehicles except RV’s (which are also defined as motor homes, boats, boat trailers and utility trailers) have to be parked on an impervious surface, such as compacted dirt/gravel, asphalt or concrete. No disabled or unlicensed vehicles or boats can be stored or parked in the yard, unless they are parked away from public view in a “fully enclosed building at all times,” according to the ordinance.

The ordinance also prohibits vehicles from blocking public sidewalks or streets.

In another change, the city modified the ability for living in an RV or camper vehicle on a residential property. Now someone can live in a motorhome, travel trailer or camper for no more than a week within a six month period, otherwise a temporary use permit is required, and can only be used up to 30 days, and renewed four times each year.

This section of the ordinance was the subject of scrutiny from one Renton Planning Commissioner, David Fleetwood. When planning commissioners reviewed the ordinance on Sept. 18, some saw it as an improvement from not allowing any amount of time living in an RV. But Fleetwood worried malicious property owners might use the ordinance to target folks living in vehicles.

“I feel like this whole issue has been rushed through,” Fleetwood told Renton Reporter in September.

He said he hoped the council wouldn’t let the issue get through just because nobody noticed it. At a Sept. 23 planning and development committee, staff said due to the commissioners’ debate, the Mayor’s Office asked the item be presented to the full council at a future Committee of the Whole meeting for discussion. But this item was not brought to the full council, until it was an ordinance for the council to approve for first reading on Nov. 25.

The same meeting the ordinance was read for second and final reading, Dec. 9, someone came out to public comment to address their concerns about living in vehicles. The commenter had just purchased a RV to live in, but later found out the city wouldn’t allow that. She argued that living in an RV can be better than being in a house if well-equipped, and that it can also help neighbors experiencing homelessness. She asked council if they could change the law so that inspected RVs can be lived in.

“I think a lot of us can help people that are homeless, by having an RV and letting someone live in it while they get back on their feet,” the commenter said.

Councilmember Randy Corman asked that the commenter be reached out to by city staff, so she understood the new temporary use permit process and that she could be a party of record in any future decisions on living in vehicles. Mayor Denis Law also added at the meeting that it’s an ongoing issue, and perhaps in 2020 “it may be something the council wants to revisit.”

The code changes, previously reported in Renton Reporter, were part of a package changing how large vehicles like RVs and commercial trucks can park in Renton. Council also passed an ordinance over the summer that changes rules around parking on public property. The ordinance passed Dec. 9 focused on residential property.

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