Parking Policing

Austin isn't alone in its attempt to regulate parking on lawns. This week, the city of Rollingwood began considering its own parking ordinance, which is broader and imposes more restrictions than the draft proposal currently before the Austin City Council. Drawn up by Council Member Danny Thomas' office, Austin's proposed ordinance lets neighborhoods opt in or out and regulates only "self-propelled vehicle[s] designed for use on a highway" (cars, SUVs, etc.) and inoperable vehicles. Violators will receive $20 fines, $40 if paid late.

Meanwhile, Rollingwood's tentative parking ban would affect all 1,400 residents -- approximately 500 homes -- and regulate parked boats and trailers in addition to vehicles. Violators could be fined $200 for each day of violation -- up to $2,000, the same fine doled out by the Austin Police Dept. for DWIs and other Class B misdemeanors. The ban goes hand-in-hand with another, even nit-pickier draft ordinance requiring homeowners to cut their lawns to a visible height of no more than four inches (except during wild flower growing season) and to ensure that grass and weeds do not hang over curbs, sidewalks, property lines, or driveways by more than an inch. Furthermore, property owners can be penalized for failing "to keep any house, building, establishment, lot, yard, or ground, free from filth, carrion or impure or unwholesome matter of any kind." (Presumably, this does not include crinkled copies of Hustler stashed in closets, or gaudy pink flamingos stuck out by the rhododendrons.)

The Rollingwood City Council held a public hearing on the two proposals Wednesday night to collect public input. We couldn't get any info before press time, but Alderman Bill Hamilton told the Chronicle earlier this week that most residents who've contacted him about the ordinances aren't supportive. "These are generally being viewed as excessive, unnecessarily obtrusive on how folks keep their yards up, and perhaps an effort to -- how shall we say -- legislate 'good neighbors,'" he said. He's "generally in agreement" with those conclusions. "I'll keep my yard up the way I do it, and I'll do it without any city ordinance."

The proposals came about after a fellow council member suggested ways to improve the city's appearance, said Hamilton. Acknowledging the potential impact on the community, the council went the extra mile in notifying the public. In an April 4 letter to local businesses and residents, Mayor Thom Farrell (who could not be reached for comment) said the council probably wouldn't take definitive action until their next meeting, Wednesday, May 15.

Meanwhile, Austin's parking ordinance goes before City Council for a second time today (Thursday), and for a third time April 25.

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