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New rule would benefit truckers

Now, only certain pickups can legally park in residential areas 24 hours a day. The city may change that soon.

By ANNE LINDBERG

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 11, 2001


PINELLAS PARK -- Saying Pinellas Park is a community of blue collar workers whose only transportation may be their trucks, City Council members are poised to loosen the rules against parking commercial vehicles in residential areas.

Under the current ordinance, commercial trucks are banned from being parked in residential areas unless they're there on business. That's true no matter their size.

That rule has some unintended effects: A pickup truck that has a sign on the side advertising a business is banned from being parked in residential areas unless the driver is there on business. But another pickup truck, identical except for the lack of a sign, is permitted to be parked any time and for as long as the owner desires.

"I have a problem when a guy can have a pickup truck in one yard and another guy next door can have another pickup truck and because he has writing on the side of it, it becomes a commercial vehicle and he's not allowed but his next-door neighbor is," Pinellas Park Mayor Bill Mischler said. "I don't see where these types of vehicles have done any harm over all these years."

In addition, the ordinance really has not been enforced all these years, Mischler said. In fact, several weeks ago the owner of a tow truck that was ticketed for being parked in a residential area came to the council. He brought with him about 100 photos of trucks illegally parked in residential areas. The man demanded that they all be ticketed and forced to obey the rules if he had to.

"To the best of my knowledge they were never ticketed," Mischler said.

He added, "I think the Police Department needs some clarification also."

Other council members agreed and instructed city staff members to come up with a new ordinance that would allow smaller trucks, such as pickups, to be parked in residential areas no matter the day or hour and for as long as the owner wants. Slightly larger vehicles, like furniture or tow trucks, would be allowed between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. to allow folks to drive them home for lunch. The largest, such as fire trucks, would not be allowed in residential areas unless they were there on business.

As council member Patricia Bailey-Snook said jokingly, it would be nice to know the fire truck could come into the neighborhood if it was needed.

Council members even decided to include a visual aid with the new ordinance. The graphic shows various classes of trucks and the types of trucks that would fit into each category.

That way, code enforcement officers would be able to compare trucks to the pictures in deciding whether to ticket. If the truck did not match one of the pictures, then the officer would ask to see the registration to determine the truck's weight. If the truck is too heavy, it would have to be moved.

The discrepancies in the old ordinance and the failure to enforce it for everyone caused few problems until recently. That's when the city's police volunteers began ticketing in strict accordance with the rules.

In one memorable instance, a Time Warner van was ticketed. The father of the driver called Mischler to complain.

Mischler called a police sergeant to ask why the van was ticketed. The sergeant decided to tear up the ticket.

That lead to charges that Mischler had ordered the ticket be fixed. Mischler denied the charges and was also cleared after police Chief Dorene Thomas investigated. But the situation brought the problems with the ordinance to Mischler's attention and prompted him to ask for the changes.

Mischler referred to it himself during Tuesday's workshop.

"Recent events have brought this to a head, I think," he said.

"This is a bedroom community. It's a blue-collar community. We do have a lot of people in the trades business here in the city. We have electricians and plumbers that have vans and pick up trucks and they have always taken them home."

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