In Norwalk, a car-service operator regularly parked five limousines along the curbs in front of his house.
In Milford, someone repeatedly parked a huge oil-leaking truck in a residential neighborhood.
In Monroe, officials declared that public property cannot be used to subsidize private companies.
The frustration is documented in news stories from multiple towns for a dozen years – officials are struggling to find ways to stop commercial vehicle owners from parking on residential streets.
Now Stamford is close to passing a beefed-up ordinance designed to do a better job of it.
The ordinance, slated for a public hearing later this month and a vote by the Board of Representatives in early May, sets stricter limits for parking large commercial vehicles on the streets where people live.
If the ordinance passes as expected, it will target vehicles that have any of 21 types of license plate – including commercial, combination, dealer, construction, hearse, taxi and livery – and any one of these characteristics – taller than 8 feet, longer than 20 feet, wider than 7 feet, heavier than 12,000 pounds, or more than four wheels. Trucks cannot have a load capacity of more than ¾ of a ton.
Under the ordinance it will be illegal to park such vehicles in a residential zone between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., or for more than two hours in any 24-hour period.
Fines start at $80 for exceeding the two-hour limit, and $120 for parking overnight.
Complaints from residents about roads narrowed by big trucks parked at the curb and difficulty rounding street corners and pulling out of driveways are citywide, but come mostly from neighborhoods south of the Merritt Parkway, Transportation Bureau Chief Frank Petise said.
“We’re not trying to hurt people who are running a business and trying to make a living,” Petise said. “We’re trying to control those situations where people are really abusing things, where a guy has five people working for him and they each have a vehicle and he has them parking all over the road near his house.”
Petise said he handles on-street parking violations and Zoning Enforcement Officer Jim Lunney handles on-property parking violations.
“People bring garbage trucks home, taxi cabs, cleaning-service vans. They park them in their yards and on the street so they don’t have to rent a place to park them,” Lunney said. “If you’re a business, that’s fine for you. But it’s not fine for your neighbors.”
People pave their front and side lawns to create parking space for their business vehicles, Lunney said. But zoning regulations allow residential property owners to park only one vehicle with a capacity of ¾ of a ton or less – roughly the size of a van or small pickup truck – on site.
“If you have a landscaping company and you and your two sons each has a truck, you can park only one truck in the driveway,” Lunney said. “You can’t park any of them on the street.”
The No. 1 complaint coming into the zoning office is about illegal apartments, Lunney said. It’s followed by complaints about commercial vehicles parked on residential streets.
“Those two together make up 75 percent of what we deal with,” Lunney said.
The problem has grown with the city. Lunney said areas such as the S0uth End that once provided affordable lots for small businesses have been overtaken by apartment high-rises and other development. Now space is scarce, and affordable space even moreso, he said.
Small business owners are parking at home.
“You keep eating up the forest and pretty soon the bears are in your backyard, because there’s nowhere else to go,” he said.
Petise said that, to revamp Stamford’s ordinance governing commercial vehicles and parking in residential neighborhoods, he researched ordinances drawn up in other towns.
There was plenty to see.
“This is happening all over,” Petise said.
To report improper parking of a commercial vehicle, log in to Fix It Stamford at https://veoci.com/v/p/dashboard/rpny838xny.