By Lea Kahn, Staff Writer
WEST WINDSOR — A controversial ordinance amendment that bans parking on front lawns, which was approved by the out-going Township Council in one of its last actions of 2015, has been shot down by Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh.
The amendment to an existing ordinance controlled where a car, truck or recreational vehicle could be parked on public or private property, and the length of time that it could be parked there. It was adopted at Township Council’s Dec. 21 meeting, despite objections from some residents.
The amendment to the ordinance was sparked by a handful of property owners who routinely park their cars in the front yard of their homes. Former Township Councilman Bryan Maher said the goal of the ordinance amendment was to make West Windsor Township look better.
The ordinance amendment stipulated that a car or truck that belongs to the property owner or resident of the house must be parked in the driveway — not on the lawn in front of the house.
The car or truck could be parked in the side yard if it is screened from view. It could be parked, unscreened, in the front yard or side yard — if there are exceptional circumstances — for a maximum of 24 hours.
The amendment to the ordinance also said that “inoperable, unlicensed or uninspected” cars, trucks, truck trailers or automotive parts could not be left on public property — except in an emergency, and only for a maximum of 48 hours.
On private property, a vehicle could be parked for up to 30 days — unless it is used in farming or for agricultural purposes. If the vehicle belongs to someone other than the property owner or someone who lives in the house, it must be parked inside a garage.
The ordinance also addressed the issue of the private sale of cars or trucks. It said they may not be parked on the street or any other public places with a “for sale” sign on it. A “for sale” sign on a vehicle that is parked on private property may be displayed for up to 30 days.
Mayor Hsueh issued his veto of the ordinance amendment on Dec. 31, in a memorandum to Township Council. The ordinance is too broad with too much room for abuse, he wrote. If parking on the grass or having “for sale” signs on cars is an issue, it could be addressed at a later time with a better ordinance, he added.
The mayor expressed concern for the residents who live on smaller lots in older areas of town, and who cannot increase their parking areas because there is no room or because they would need to seek a costly zoning variance.
“For environmental reasons, I do not want to encourage owners of smaller lots to increase their impervious coverage (paved areas) just in case they need to park more cars,” Mayor Hsueh wrote, adding that they are the ones who would feel the brunt of the amendments.
Mayor Hsueh also wrote that the ordinance amendment “steps on the rights of private property owners” by allowing neighbors to call the police if a homeowner has guests who park their car in the driveway for more than 24 hours.
“It doesn’t account for situations over the holidays or vacation when adult children and their families return home to stay with their parents for a longer period of time,” Mayor Hsueh wrote.
The ordinance also creates an environment that allows residents to call the police to complain about alleged ordinance violations because they are unhappy with their neighbors, the mayor wrote. “This is not the type of culture and environment we want to encourage,” he added.
This is the third time in his 14-plus years as mayor that he has vetoed an ordinance, Mayor Hsueh said. Under West Windsor Township’s nonpartisan mayor-council form of government, the mayor may veto an ordinance, subject to override by a two-thirds majority of Township Council.
In 2004, Mayor Hsueh vetoed an ordinance involving the issuance of liquor licenses, and in 2008, he rejected an ordinance that would have raised the salaries of the mayor and Township Council. Neither of the ordinance vetoes was overridden by Township Council.
By Lea Kahn, Staff Writer