When Tom Ronayne received a letter from the city of Andover asking him to remove the work truck parked on his driveway, he and his daughter strolled around his Shadowbrook neighborhood, snapping digital pictures of 38 commercial vehicles on driveways in a four-block area.
"This is a working-class community in Andover; just look around my neighborhood," he said.
After Ronayne complained, the City Council directed the Planning Department to find a way to bring some flexibility to a city code that limits residential parking pads to passenger vehicles and bans commercial vehicles and equipment. The intent is to maintain the residential character of neighborhoods.
The issue will be up for discussion at a public hearing before the Planning and Zoning Commission on Jan. 12. The language likely will be refined further before it goes before the council later in the month. Other cities also restrict commercial vehicles, by weight, length, vehicle type or nameplate. Some allow for residential storage but require commercial vehicles to be screened.
For City Council Member Don Jacobson, the issue is about parity.
"Look at some of the big GMCs, Suburbans and big Ford SUVs that are larger than what we would allow commercial vehicles to be," he said. "In my opinion, if we allow big Suburbans and others in a normal residential neighborhood, what's the difference between that and having a commercial van of the same size? The only difference is that they have the name of the company on the side."
In recent months, the city has sent about half a dozen letters to residents in violation of the code, said associate planner Angie Perera, who has been charged with the responsibility of creating new language for the commission to review.
The amended code will have to take into account both the property owners and their neighbors, whose sightlines will be affected.
"It's obviously important to maintain and allow a certain lifestyle," she said. "We don't want to be so strict that we're putting someone out of a job because they can't bring their work vehicle home. At the same time, we're trying to maintain that our neighborhoods are still residential districts and not becoming home businesses. We're trying maintain property values for neighboring property owners, as well."
Amended language likely will set guidelines for the number of commercial vehicles allowed on one driveway, as well as their length and gross weight. It may also include restrictions on the size or presentation of advertising and also wrap in guidance for storing recreational vehicles in larger lots.
Ronayne, who designs and installs security systems and websites, said he received the electricians'-style truck, complete with a ladder rack and cabinets, in a barter from a heating and air conditioning company that needed network repairs. His wife has suggested he just get rid of the truck, but for him, the discussion has become one of principles.
"I shouldn't have to," he said. "What is this, Andover, Russia?"
Maria Elena Baca • 612-673-4409
The Andover Planning and Zoning Commission will discuss new code language at 7 p.m. on Jan. 12, at City Hall, 1685 Crosstown Boulevard NW.