City looks to align blight ordinance with current zoning
Marlborough – The Legislative and Legal Affairs subcommittee of the City Council is set to review an amendment to the city’s anti-blight ordinance. The change would amend the existing ordinance, which deems non-registered vehicles parked on lawns or landscaped surfaces as a nuisance, to include all motor vehicles, registered and non-registered.
Code Enforcement Officer Pamela Wilderman explained that the city’s zoning regulations already state that both registered and non-registered vehicles are not allowed to park on anything but an impervious surface. That makes parking on surfaces like grass or mulch a violation punishable by a fine.
“People need to understand that this is not a new idea; it is already a violation of the zoning ordinance,” Wilderman said. “We are just looking for a correction in the anti-blight ordinance to include registered cars, which is already included in the zoning regulations.”
According to the existing anti-blight ordinance, registered cars parked on lawn are not a nuisance, however they are in violation of zoning regulations and can be subject to fines.
“Whether you live in the downtown city area or in the [suburb] area of Marlborough, people did not spend $250,000 and up to see cars parked all over their neighbors’ lawns,” Wilderman said. “This is the epitome of blight.”
She said that the zoning ordinance was passed to prevent fluids leaking from vehicles from seeping into the ground and potentially entering the city’s drinking water. Worse, according to code enforcers, are cars parked on non-impervious surfaces in the city’s designated water supply protection districts.
Eager to work with residents to resolve the problem, Wilderman explained that residents are allowed to keep one uninspected vehicle in their driveway or garage, but it must be drive-able. Having a car on blocks indefinitely, even in the driveway, is a violation of the city ordinance.
“People are parking on the lawns because their driveways are filled with vehicles needing motor changes and other extensive repairs … That it not what your neighbors signed up for,” Wilderman said. “We have been getting a lot of complaints about the noise and fumes due to repairs. It’s just growing on itself … We need to go back to what the ordinance says.”
With complaints and violations on the rise over the past three years, Wilderman said that additional cars parked at one- and two-family properties is indicative of a problem larger than noise and fumes: additional regular vehicles often point to single- and multi-family homes being used as illegal apartments.
Wilderman explained that the city has a history of large families and of multi-general families living in one residence and it is not her right or intention to come into a home and count heads. But what does concern her are the renters who are not in legally zoned apartments that pass city safety codes.
Although the zoning ordinance is not a new city policy, Wilderman said that the city is empathetic to residents hit by hard economic times; therefore, she said, the first offence is generally dealt with in a written letter. If there is no compliance, then that is followed by a fine that can accrue daily.
“I am only enforcing the existing rules,” Wilderman said.
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