Here’s What Happened at September’s P&Z Meeting

The Commission discussed the matter and numerous questions were asked and discussed. Public comment was solicited, and I used my turn to offer the following perspective;

Members of the Commission, thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak to you this evening.

I wish to emphatically oppose any weakening of the current Zoning Code, Section 31.04 as it applies to the Storage of RV’s, Trailers, Busses, Motor Homes, and other large vehicles and trailers in side and rear yards of residential properties “within the wall” of “old” Litchfield Park.

Conversely, I wish to support strengthening the Code to clearly state that such long-term storage of said vehicles be even more strictly regulated, in agreement with the Staff Recommendation.

Our community has, since its incorporation, been well served by the existing Code, the wording of which was recently validated by the Board of Adjustment at its April 7th meeting.

Litchfield Park, known for its open spaces and generous set-back requirements, has benefited in both its property values and its unique character and reputation, by maintaining a strict limit on the number and types of storage permitted on residential properties.

In a recent BOA meeting on June 2nd, in response to an applicant’s request to encroach only 5 feet into the required side set-back, Board Chairperson, Susan Charnetsky stated;

“I am very protective of setbacks, because setbacks are open spaces between homes. It really makes what the community IS, by having everything look spacious and open and landscaped. Generally, we are VERY PROTECTIVE of setbacks.”

Yet, if the Commission moves to weaken the Code, large vehicles allowed to be stored in side yards would virtually eliminate these sacred setbacks. Stored next to a structure, a typical 8-foot-wide trailer, parked just 2 feet from the adjacent residence would eliminate a full two-thirds or 10 feet of the required 15-foot building setback and practically eliminate the community’s open and spacious look that I, and apparently the Board of Adjustment, hold very dear.

Furthermore, why do all of the “other” neighborhoods in Litchfield Park, outside the wall, specifically prohibit RV storage through HOA enforced CC&R’s? is it because of their unsightly appearance and potential for destroying carefully created sight lines? We deserve the same protection.

I further believe that Zoning would never allow a resident to construct a 40 foot long, 8 foot wide, 12 foot tall “tin” storage shed in the typical Litchfield Park side yard. Yet, a “toy hauler” trailer of JUST such size, which is nothing more than a “tin shed on wheels”, could be permanently stored in the same side yard if the City moves to weaken the Code.

Additionally, even Maricopa County Zoning Code, which is generally more permissive than our own, in Section 1114.1.2., referring to “travel trailer, aircraft, boat, camping trailer, truck camper or motor home” storage in side or rear yards, requires that “Such storage shall maintain a five (5) foot clear path around any structures.” This is to facilitate access for emergency services personnel in case of fire or the need to access or evacuate the structure. Allowing a 10-Ton Motor Home to be stored within inches of a residence is dangerous to both the occupants and to emergency first-responders. Any Code revisions must consider the requirements of our own police and fire services and public safety in this regard.

It is my experience that these stored vehicles generally see very little use throughout the year and, as such, just sit deteriorating in the sun, for most of the time. Will P&Z consider requiring stored vehicles to maintain current registration to prevent unserviceable vehicles from being just warehoused on a property? Once they are no longer roadworthy, how will the owner be prevented from using them to store junk inside, turning them into the previously mentioned “tin shed on wheels?” The Code needs to address these possibilities if it is going to allow side and rear yard large-vehicle storage.

Lastly, since side and rear yards are rarely paved, motor homes stored there rest predominantly on grass or gravel. Generally, motor vehicles not parked on paved surfaces risk ground pollution from leaking oil and other harmful fluids, each potentially creating a miniature Crane plume within our residential lots. This, too, needs to be addressed in Code if we allow future long-term storage.

Thank you for your time and attention.

Subsequently, 4 additional residents rose to speak in favor of Option 3, which would allow virtually unrestricted storage of RV’s on properties “within the wall” of Old Litchfield Park.

At the end of the debate as the commissioners seemed to be preparing for a vote, a question arose as to the meaning of “partially screened” in Option 3. I had always understood it to mean screened to the height of a six-foot tall adjacent property wall or vegetation of equivalent height. Since there was no agreement as to the definition, the commission called for Staff to clarify this, and tabled the vote until the October 11th meeting.

Those of us who do not want to see Litchfield Park deteriorate into a trailer and motor home strewn subdivision, mirroring the loosely regulated County islands and towns around us MUST represent their views at the October meeting. Residents in favor of liberalizing the Code have formed a strong and organized Special Interest Group who were forewarned by a letter distributed to them as far back as April of this year.

This served to inform and advise approximately 20+ RV owners that the topic of RV storage was now under discussion at the City and undoubtedly spurred them into action, as they, representing a small Special Interest Group and motivated by financial and personal gain, have a strong incentive to be pro-active on this issue and lobby to have the Code liberalized.

Not notified directly in any way were the other 90% of Litchfield Park families, who unaware that their long-held protections against having their neighbors suddenly obscure their sight lines and violate City setbacks with large stored vehicles were under possible revision.

Please Contact he Planning & Zoning Commission through Daniel Loftus ([email protected]) and express your desire in writing to see that Litchfield Park maintain its current strict Zoning Code and in support of re-write proposal #1. and PLEASE attend the October meeting to voice your support in front of the Commission in person!

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