The city recently learned its property maintenance code doesn't allow it to cite owners who store inoperable travel trailers and other nonmotorized vehicles.
The Hot Springs District Court dismissed a citation the neighborhood services division of the Hot Springs Planning and Development Department assessed against the owner of an inoperable travel trailer. The code prohibits keeping, maintaining or storing inoperable motor vehicles on public or private property in the city, but the court said the code only applies to motorized vehicles.
"The judge correctly noted (the property maintenance code) applies to motorized vehicles and neither could the subject trailer be considered 'trash and debris,'" the planning and development department said in its request to remove the word "motor" from the code section. "The case was thrown out. Yet the problem remains."
The Hot Springs Board of Directors adopted an ordinance approving the text change last week, removing "motor" from the code section and amending the code's definition of an inoperable vehicle. Keeping, storing or maintaining a camper or trailer incapable of being legally operated on city streets or that doesn't have a valid registration or license plate will be a code violation when the ordinance takes effect next month.
"We have a lot of neighborhood concern about open storage of inoperable vehicles, which is travel trailers, which do not have motors by their very nature, and they are in such condition to be inoperable or capable of being used as they were designed to be used, but we cannot address this in (the property maintenance code) if the vehicle in question is not motorized," Planning and Development Director Kathy Sellman told the board last week. "That will help us to cover some items that have thwarted our efforts to clean up in the neighborhoods, something we get a lot of complaints about."
The new definition of inoperable vehicle reads:
"Any vehicle not in proper condition to be legally operated on the streets of Hot Springs; or that does not have a current valid registration and/or license plate, when required; or if motorized and not capable of being self-propelled. For purposes herein, the term vehicle shall include any self-propelled vehicle, boat, camper or trailer used for the transportation of people or cargo."
The code included a provision for repair permits, allowing owners of inoperable vehicles to apply for permits that gave them four months to return vehicles to working condition. The board unanimously repealed that section in September 2019.
"We'll work with someone if they are for real working on (their vehicle)," Sellman told the board. "Most people who say they're working on it would like to be working on it but don't get around to it. Sadly, we have pictures that go back more than 10 years of the same vehicle."