Will Town Council Make a Boat Load of Trouble?
By GEORGE SOUTHERN
Cape Charles Wave
September 24, 2012
First it was political signs, now it’s boats.
One Town ordinance bans display of political signs until 45 days before an election (that’s September 22). Another ordinance prohibits boat parking on the street for more than 48 hours.
Both ordinances are illegal.
Display of political signs on private property is a First Amendment right that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1994.
Boat parking on Town streets is a little more complicated. Town streets are controlled and maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation. VDOT allows towns to regulate vehicle parking, but not to differentiate between types of vehicles.
A car or a truck is a vehicle. So is a boat on a trailer. So if the Town permits parking by cars or trucks, it has to allow boats as well.
The Wave surveyed every street in the Historic District yesterday, and found a total of 12 boats parked on streets. There had been high winds that day, and presumably few small boats were out on the water. So the 12 boats would seem to be roughly all the boats parked on Town streets at this time of year.
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In August, Town Planner Tom Bonadeo reported to Town Council that “numerous complaints” had been received about boat trailers parked on the street. The Wave subsequently filed a Freedom of Information Act request for information on each complaint received by the Town this calendar year.
Town Clerk Libby Hume responded, “Most of the complaints were received verbally to which no written records are available.” Only one complaint was documented, she said, about a boat parked in the 200 block of Tazewell Avenue.
Town Council has scheduled a work session for 6 p.m. Thursday, September 27. The only item on the agenda is a review of boat parking. The public may attend but not speak.
Town Planner Bonadeo has reported to Council that in order to regulate boat parking, the Town must submit a bill to the General Assembly to modify the state code.
Of the 190 incorporated towns in Virginia, only three have been granted permission by the General Assembly to regulate boat trailer parking. The three towns are Clifton, Herndon, and Vienna — all in populous areas of Northern Virginia.
Town code not only prohibits boat parking over 48 hours, it prohibits storing boats on private empty lots as well, unless the lot is an “accessory” to a residence. In other words, a lot adjoining a residence may be used for a boat, but any other empty residential lot may not.