Council grapples with nuisances

The hottest issues at Tuesday’s Oak Harbor City Council meeting were a couple of proposals for changes to nuisance codes.

In the end, the council postponed a decision on a code that would have prevented Albertson’s and other stores from running loud cleaner trucks in the parking lot between the hours of 9 p.m. and 7 a.m.

They adopted a new nuisance vehicle code, but cut out — at least for the time being — a measure that would have prohibited parking more than seven days in one place on city streets. However, people will no longer be able park “apparently inoperable” vehicles or cars with expired registrations in excess of 45 days on city streets.

The city’s current noise code contains prohibitions on all sorts of noises, from singing to the keeping of a loud bird. Construction machinery, for example, cannot to run between the hours of 9 p.m. to 7 a.m.

But City Attorney Phil Bleyhl told the council that the code currently does not cover maintenance equipment. He said a neighbor of the Albertson’s store complained to the city about the noise of a parking lot sweeper operating before 7 o’clock in the morning. He pointed out that the noise may affect many more people someday as more homes are being built near Albertson’s.

Bleyhl proposed a code amendment to correct the omission.

But Bob Drennen, the store director of Albertson’s, complained about the proposal. He explained that the parking lot has to be cleaned five days a week and early in the morning, usually between 5 to 7 a.m. After that, he said, the lot begins to fill up with Starbucks customers.

“How am I supposed to clean my parking lot and run my business if I’m confined to 9 p.m. to 7 in the morning?” he asked.

However, Drennen acknowledged that the noise issue is a problem. He said the noise can carry a lot further now that the hill above Albertson’s, where the new extension of Barrington Drive runs, has been clear cut.

Several city council members said they would like to figure out some sort of compromise. They tabled a decision until the Aug. 8 meeting and asked staff to “problem solve” with businesses that could be affected.

In addition, the council took up the problem of abandoned vehicles left on city streets. Bleyhl explained that it’s difficult, under the current code, to remove those ugly hulks because they must be considered junk vehicles and have no value.

In contrast, to be considered apparently inoperable, a car or truck must either not comply with requirements for use on public streets or have extensive damage or have significant parts missing, such as a windshield or engine.

Also, the new code outlaws vehicles with expired registrations in excess of 45 days from city streets and other public places.

A couple of council members balked, however, at the part of the proposed ordinance that would have prohibited parking in excess of seven days in one place on a city street.

Councilmen Paul Brewer and Jim Campbell said the ordinance wouldn’t be fair to members of the Navy, who are sometimes called away on short notice. Brewer suggested that a compromise could be made for members of the Navy.

Councilwoman Sheilah Crider said she wanted to make the period of time even shorter than seven days. Both Crider and Councilwoman Sue Karahalios said Navy people aren’t the problem.

Ultimately, the council passed the nuisance vehicle code without the seven-day limit. That proposal may be brought back to them at a later meeting.

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