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City officials tightening up confusing section of nearly 40-year-old municipal code

Troutdale's parking enforcement code was enacted 37 years ago and has only had sparse updates since it was first written. As city officials have worked to interpret portions of the law, they have determined sections of the code are outdated and unclear.

At the City Council's meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 26, Troutdale City Manager Ray Young and Troutdale Prosecuting Attorney Scott Leonard discussed how they are updating Municipal Code Chapter 10-Vehicles to make the regulations less murky.

"What came up from constantly looking at the code and trying to find answers is it became very confusing — even to me as someone who looks at laws every day," Leonard said.

Leonard has revised the code by keeping sections that work, borrowed language from other cities to update unclear wording, and reviewed the draft proposals with the city's other legal experts.

From that review, officials determined a code section addressing abandoned and hazardous vehicles needs to be completely rewritten, Young said. It's difficult and unclear when Troutdale can legally impound an abandoned vehicle.

"Under the current code, a disabled car sitting up on blocks with the tires stripped off, that's sitting on your street, can sit there for five days before we can do anything," he said, "and to do something, we have to send a registered letter to the registered owner to ask them to get rid of it, or we'll tow it."

There are two problems with tracking down a car's owner.

"One, is quite often people will buy and sell vehicles and not change the title to the owner, so we don't really know who the owner is," Young said.

Also, if a car has out-of-state license plates, it can be more difficult to track down the vehicle's owner.

"What a lot of jurisdictions do is they don't go through that whole long process of citing an abandoned vehicle, they simply take a big bright orange sticker, put it on the window, facing the street stating, 'If you don't get this thing out of here in 72 hours, we're going to tow it,'" Young said.

The city's proposed code changes reflect a similar strategy.

In the code update, a car truly has to be abandoned before the city can forcibly remove it. Meaning the car must either be visibly unusable, have expired registration tags or missing license plates.

"It's not that we just don't like it parked there," Young said.

Following the discussion, councilors asked Leonard to come back with a draft with the former code sections struck through, and any proposed changes highlighted in red so that the City Council can discuss the issue more at its next meeting on Tuesday, March 12.

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