The Cortez City Council’s attempt to correct a 4-year-old typo led to a debate at its Tuesday meeting over where recreational vehicles should be allowed to park within city limits.
In 2013, the council passed an ordinance that City Attorney Mike Green said was meant to keep people from camping in trailers or RVs overnight on city property. Thanks to a one-word mistake, the ordinance instead forbids RV parking on city streets for any length of time. On Tuesday, the council scheduled a public hearing to correct the ordinance, but some town residents said they would rather keep it the way it is.
Section 16-8 of the Cortez city code currently reads, “No person shall park or occupy any recreational vehicle or park trailer ... on any City of Cortez street, alley or other City property.” It levies a fine of up to $500 for violators. On Tuesday, the council approved a first reading of an ordinance that would change the first “or” in that sentence to an “and,” allowing owners to park their RVs on city property. The rest of the section would still prohibit people from living in the vehicles and attaching them to a permanent power or water source. Green, who presented the proposed amendment to the council, said that was the intent of the original ordinance.
“It’s unenforceable in its current state,” he said.
In a workshop before the city meeting, City Manager Shane Hale said the ordinance was originally a response to complaints that people were living in trailers on streets and parking lots. Police Chief Roy Lane said he hasn’t enforced the existing ordinance, and wasn’t aware of the mistake in its wording until recently. He said RVs don’t usually cause traffic problems by parking on the street for a short time, even though they sometimes block drivers’ view of the road.
“My real concern is, where do they put them?” he said. “Where do all these people put their fifth wheels? And how do we enforce it?”
He said that towing or fining everyone who parks a trailer on the street would be impractical.
But during the regular meeting, two neighbors from the Colorado Street area said they thought RVs shouldn’t be allowed on public property at all, citing aesthetic reasons. Gary Croke said the changes caused by the 2013 ordinance were among the reasons he moved back into town.
“You are doing so much to keep the town looking nice,” he told the council. “I just want you to consider what it’s going to do to the town if we have trailers parked in the street all summer, or parking in the winter, or whatever. I don’t think it’s in line with your beautification project.”
Croke said he parks his own RV on his private property, and suggested other RV owners do the same. Mayor Pro Tem Ty Keel said that may not be an option for everyone.
“From an affordability standpoint, people that maybe can’t afford to extend their property or their fences ... how do we approach them?” he said. “Should people who cannot afford those luxuries not be allowed to have something that gives them satisfaction in life?”
One resident responded by saying people who can afford an RV in the first place can likely afford private storage as well.
Other parts of the city code’s chapter on RVs restrict their owners from parking within a certain distance of residential driveways and other prohibited areas. The code also prohibits people from living in an RV on private property for more than 30 days. The council spent some time discussing those sections as well, but they did not make any plans to change them.
The council voted unanimously to approve the first reading of the amended ordinance and scheduled a public hearing for Sept. 26 to take a final vote on it.
Other actionIn a workshop before the meeting, council members decided not to send relief money to victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, though several members suggested they might post links to hurricane relief charities on the city’s website in the near future.During the regular meeting, the council voted unanimously to approve a minor subdivision on a North Broadway property where the city hopes to build a “Gateway to Cortez” sign.Also during the regular meeting, Orly Lucero and Shawna McLaughlin recused themselves from an otherwise unanimous vote to approve a pole attachment agreement with Empire Electric Association, which plans to put new poles on East Main Street and near the Conquistador Golf Course Pro Shop.The council also voted unanimously to approve an item that was not posted on the agenda: giving the city permission to create an automatic deposit account for the Cortez Public Library to receive reimbursement funds through the U.S. Department of Education’s E-Rate Program.