Concerns About Cars Parks in Yards Spark Debate
It happens. And some say it’s happening way too much in Albuquerque – people parking their cars not in garages or on their driveways, but in their front yards.
Local critical care nurse Brad Tingley doesn’t like it at all. The life-long resident of Albuquerque’s East San Pedro neighborhood said he’s opposed to people parking in their yards for a number of reasons – including his belief that it can lower the worth of surrounding property owners’ homes.
“I haven’t talked with any realtors about how this would affect the value of homes, but I can assure you it certainly doesn’t raise the value of your home in the neighborhood,” Tingley said.
“I guess my beef of it is having been born and raised in this area, nobody had ever parked in their yard and I have seen that change over the years,” he said. “Now people are parking in their front yards and then, one, it’s an eyesore, it doesn’t look good to me, especially if there’s a neighbor that has one car kind of parked a little bit off center – sideways – when they pull in,” he said.
“But when you start getting four, five, six, seven, eight, or more cars – that becomes a parking lot and it has affected our neighbors,” said Tingley, who has researched the zoning code. “Neighbors are saying, “What is going on with these people?”
The practice is fueling a debate across the city, and city officials are trying to decide what to do about it.
Until nine years ago, the city’s zoning code didn’t have much to say about yard parking, but in 2007 city councilors Isaac Benton and Sally Mayer introduced a bill to limit how much of a front yard in residential zones R-1, R-LT and R-L can be used to park cars.
“Parking on any portion of a front yard setback area, other than the improved parking and maneuvering areas, is prohibited,” according to the code.
The current point of debate is whether the regulation affects homes built before 2007. Diane Dolan, Benton’s policy analyst, said it was Benton’s goal in 2007 for the ordinance to affect every homeowner in Albuquerque.
“His intent, when he sponsored it, he did not include a grandfather clause. And it was not his intent that this would apply only to homes built after 2006 – particularly the prohibition on parking on an unapproved (space) in your front yard itself,” she said.
Benton himself told ABQ Free Press Weekly in an email, “I do not recall any intention to grandfather properties built prior to its passage.” He plans to introduce legislation clarifying that.
“There was strong support in 2007 for some control on front yard parking, particularly on unimproved dirt, with the belief that it degraded neighborhoods and lowered property values,” Benton said. “I am now hearing that people are upset due to the non-enforcement. Such laws can always bear re-evaluation and tweaking.”
Other city officials, including Albuquerque Associate Planning Director Brennon Williams, interpret the zoning code differently.
“There is a section of the code that deals with non-conformities – uses or structures that were established prior to a change in the rules, and that section of the code indicates that unless there is an addition of 200 or more square feet [of building square footage] to the property, or the property remains vacant for a continuous period of 12 or more months, then folks are grandfathered in for the life of the property,” Williams said.
Dolan said city officials are working to address that disconnect.
“Some council staff has already met with the planning department to sort of figure out, you know, what their specific concerns are and how they can be addressed in the amendment,” which will be introduced in the next few weeks but won’t be heard until December or, more likely, early next year, she said.
Tingley said his quest to get the zoning code change was an eye-opener. “To get to see that, even though the wheels turn slow in government, as I know, as I am finding out, that things can be done by an individual citizen,” he said.