Corvallis officials this week approved changes to local rules for towing abandoned and illegally parked vehicles, but not without hearing concern from community members.
Four members of the activist group Sunrise Corvallis spoke to the City Council during its meeting Monday, Feb. 6, pointing out aspects of the municipal parking code that they said cause disproportionate harm.
Two concerns were echoed by the Sunrise members: the city’s responsibility to provide signage clarifying parking laws, and the ability to send impounded vehicles worth less than $1,000 straight to auction without a 30-day waiting period, which is required for more valuable vehicles.
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“Our community has a number of people living in vehicles who often struggle to find legal places to park and who are at high risk of becoming completely unsheltered,” Carly Werdel said.
“Right now, a lack of signage can be used as a defense to help people fight parking tickets or vehicle impoundment, which is a crucial tool for folks who are working hard to stabilize themselves and regain housing,” Werdel said.
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Both of the concerns raised by Sunrise Corvallis are part of existing code language, not proposed amendments to the code, Police Chief Jason Harvey told the council. He added that abandoned vehicles worth under $1,000 aren’t typically being lived in — they’re just sitting inoperable and unused.
It’s impractical to put parking signs every several hundred feet on every block, City Manager Mark Shepard noted in addressing the signage issue, saying the city’s 48-hour abandonment standard applies citywide and some areas have special restrictions.
“The issues related to abandoned and illegally parked vehicles have created a measurable impact on livability within the city to include safety and environmental concerns,” a staff report from Police Department leadership states.
Police officials acknowledged that the way the current code — recently reviewed by PD staff and the City Attorney’s Office — is written makes enforcement of those rules difficult.
The review revealed portions of the code were last revised in 1981 and referenced Oregon laws that no longer exist, according to the staff report.
Additionally, some language was unclear, confusing or contradictory, the report states, leading staff to suggest changes to three areas of the municipal code:
- Processing and disposal of impounded vehicles.
- Towing nuisance vehicles.
- The notice process for towing vehicles.
One of the changes was to remove the word “motor” from the phrase motor vehicle in certain sections, broadening the types of vehicles that can be towed to include trailers. Other changes bring the chapter into alignment with current state law.
The second set of amendments adds language defining what constitutes "nuisance vehicles," which are subject to immediate removal. Other changes to the section include housekeeping and clarifications.
And the third amendment request addressed pre-tow notice requirements, clarifying the notice period to include holidays and weekends among other changes.
Councilors approved the code changes 5-2, with councilors Gabe Shepherd and Briae Lewis opposing. Shepherd said his opposition was “friendly” and aimed at getting more information regarding the towing contract. Councilor Charlyn Ellis was absent. The matter will return for a second vote because the first wasn’t unanimous.
Cody Mann covers the cities of Corvallis and Philomath. He can be contacted at 541-812-6113 or Cody.Mann@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter via @News_Mann_.