Newton considers new rules for residential property

Between recreational vehicles parked in yards and outbuildings constructed on residential lots, Newton leaders are planning to tackle property issues when they meet tonight.

One proposed measure continues Newton City Council's debate over an off-street parking ordinance that aims to prohibit campers, boats and other recreational vehicles from being parked in front of Newton homes.

New for consideration is a proposal that spells out new rules for Newton citizens who want to build a carport, garage or other accessory structure on their property.

Newton officials first began working on rules for recreational vehicles parking in September 2008. The city's planning commission worked with city staff to craft rules for the parking of recreational vehicles on streets and private property. In essence, the original proposal prohibited the parking of campers, boats and utility trailers on front and side yards of residential properties. Those initial proposals — discussed during a November 2008 public hearing — also included rules of parking the vehicles in back yards, as well as restrictions on the number of recreational vehicles that could be parked on one property.

Any trailer, boat or camper parked on a residential property was only allowed to be parked on an "improved" space, such a paved, concrete or gravel area.

Newton planners and city staff continued tweaking the off-street parking proposal through two City Council meetings in May 2009 and another in June, but no Council action was taken.

The proposed ordinance up for consideration during City Council's 7 p.m. meeting again focuses on recreational vehicles and boats, but it does not address utility trailers. The measure prohibits recreational vehicles and boats from being parked in a residential front yard, unless there is an improved space, such as a gravel, paved or concrete pad.

Under the proposed measure, recreational vehicles and boats may be parked in back yards or on vacant lots adjoining a property owner's land.

The proposal continues to limit the number of recreational vehicles allowed on one residential property, and all vehicles on a property "must be ready for highway use" and maintain current registration.

Newton City Council's efforts to control accessory buildings is a new topic, but it stems from the April 2010 construction of an accessory building on North Ashe Avenue. Following construction of a "galvanized metal clad garage" Newton Planning Commission "expressed concern relating to the appearance of the structure," according to a memo from Alex Fulbright, Newton's assistant planning director.

During planning commission meetings in June, July and August, planning board members discussed rules related to accessory structures and created a proposed ordinance that will be considered by Newton City Council.

Under the proposal, accessory structures, including garages and carports, will be prohibited in the front yard of a residential structure. Structures may be constructed in side and rear yards provided they comply with certain setback and size requirements.

Newton City Council meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Council Chambers at Newton City Hall. The meeting is open to the public.