Ah, the nuances of language.

The Wilsonville City Council recently approved an amendment to city code ordinance 713, which limited the time one may park a travel trailer, RV or similar vehicle on a city street to 24 hours. That seems fairly simple on its face.

But, as always, there are complications.

According to Wilsonville City Attorney Mike Kohlhoff, a local resident recently was cited by police for violating the ordinance, which was passed by the council in January. The citation alleged the resident parked his RV on a city street for two consecutive nights. But the RV owner claimed that he was entitled to park on the street by virtue of having been loading the vehicle on the first night and unloading it on the second, following a short road trip.

In response, councilors recently approved an amendment to the ordinance that allows owners of RVs, travel trailers and other vehicles with a gross weight of more than 8,000 pounds to park on public streets for up to 48 hours.

“The police, in enforcing these things, use a lot of judgment,” said Kohlhoff. “And we’re trying to give them a pretty straight-line way to do this.”

As approved, the ordinance now states: “No motor truck with a gross vehicle weight of more than 8,000 pounds, truck trailer, motor bus, recreational vehicle or utility trailer shall be parked on a street between the hours of 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. of the following day in front of or adjacent to a residence, motel, apartment, hotel or other sleeping accommodation.”

The two exceptions allowed are a possible exemption enacted by the council under special circumstances or to accommodate the loading or unloading of property. A maximum of 48 hours are allowed for “loading, unloading or a combination of both.”

“Basically, it’s an exercise in continuous improvement, and as that developed it had a little glitch,” Kohlhoff said, noting that the ordinance in question has undergone several revisions in the past in response to changing circumstances.

The city banned large vehicles from parking on public streets in the past due to complaints about RV owners and others sleeping in those vehicles for long periods of time. There even was a case, Kohlhoff said, involving illegal drug sales out of the back of one such vehicle.

Over time, however, a growing number of residents asked the city to reconsider and at least allow overnight parking for unloading and other valid purposes. Ordinance 713 was the response.

“People were sleeping in recreational vehicles, tractors, some travel trailers, and it was a problem for neighbors,” Kohlhoff said. “Then we ran into this issue that affected the loading and unloading of these vehicles, especially RVs, and we came back to amend that. So I think we have the issue solved now.”

Councilors unanimously approved the amendment at their Aug. 5 meeting.

“I think it might come back for review again,” said Councilor Julie Fitzgerald. “But I appreciate the purpose, and I think we’ve read about cities that didn’t have these kinds of things in place and they’re paying a huge price.”

Councilor Scott Starr asked how many times a vehicle owner would be allowed to claim “unloading” before it was determined they were abusing the ordinance.

“What this doesn’t address, and I don’t know if we need to, is how many times a resident can do this for the duration of the summer,” Starr said.

“My guess,” responded Kohlhoff, “is that that is not going to be a big issue if they stick to the 48 hours.”

Moving away from “selective enforcement” is the important thing, added Councilor Richard Goddard.

“What I think we’re trying to do is pass an ordinance that avoids the worst case,” Goddard said. “I think we’ve come closer here.”

Ordinance No. 713

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