The City of Milton Common Council approved on Sept. 3 a second reading of proposed language within a city ordinance regulating parking of semi-trucks and trailers on public streets.
A first reading of the new language was approved on Aug. 20. A third and final reading is scheduled for Sept. 17.
The second reading passed, with modifications to the first reading, allowing semi cabs only to park in some areas within the city for up to 48 hours within a seven-day period, using the same restrictions that apply, as outlined within the ordinance, to RVs, boats and trailers.
Mayor Anissa Welch cautioned those in attendance that proposed language could change again when it came before council for a third reading.
In a Sept. 3 memo to city council, City Administrator Al Hulick noted that the new language, as initially proposed, had been developed in response to “an increasing number of complaints from residents,” further noting that it was the city’s “desire to restrict semitrailers and semi-trucks from parking on residential streets within neighborhoods.”
During discussion on Sept. 3, Milton Police Chief Scott Marquardt said efforts to refine language within the ordinance began with what he described as “a difference of opinion slash wondering what the institutional memory was of this parking ordinance, whether it included trailers or not. The language is not explicit,” he said.
New language was meant to create a longstanding common understanding, he said.
Initially, proposed language would “strictly prohibit” semi trucks and trailers from parking on residential streets and other streets within the city designated Class B, Hulick wrote.
Proposed amendments within the ordinance prohibit residents from using parking places “for storage purposes” and parking, whether attached or unattached to a vehicle, boats, campers and trailers for more than 48 hours within a seven-day period. Parking of semis, in any combination, is prohibited on streets and in public spaces. An exception is allowed while vehicles are parked in front of places of business to load or unload, proposed language states.
The ordinance defines semis as a vehicle that is at least 30 feet long and/or weighs at least 12,000 pounds.
Within the Sept. 3 memo, Hulick outlined two alternatives that had been previously discussed by council, as further modifications to the proposed language, including amending the ordinance to allow parking of semi cabs only within the homeowner’s driveway. Language would require the vehicle to park behind the front setback of the home. Similar requirements are imposed on motor homes and other large vehicles, he wrote.
A second option was to amend the ordinance allowing overnight parking within the Crossroads Business Park on Commerce Drive. The option would likely serve as a temporary solution, Hulick wrote, because new concerns might arise as Commerce Drive developed and new neighborhoods formed. Both the city’s police and public works departments had raised concerns involving neighborhood development and deterioration to local streets, Hulick wrote.
During public comments made Aug. 20, Ben Strand, who described himself as a 12-year resident of Rogers Street and living in a historic district, said he was in support of the city’s proposed language to restrict semi truck parking on residential streets.
“I think this is really a safety issue. I think it is also aside of the norm from peer cities like Janesville, Fort Atkinson, and Whitewater; they don’t allow this sort of parking by semi trucks,” Strand said.
He cited what he described as issues of fairness, saying large vehicles brought increased potential for damage to city roads. Residents pay a wheel tax, he said, adding that he did not believe large trucks using city roads paid a fair share to mitigate potential damage.
He further cited issues of safety, as emergency vehicles worked to “get around” parked vehicles, and noise and pollution, which, he said, was caused by idling as semis underwent the process of shutting down and starting up.
Shasta Johnson, who described herself as a resident of Rogers Street and the spouse of a truck driver who owned his own business, also spoke during public comments on Aug. 20, noting her concerns with limiting parking options for semis, saying further restrictions to parking alternatives would affect her husband’s ability to spend time with his family.
Johnson asked: “The weight limit that you are proposing, RVs weigh more. If you cannot park a semi, then you cannot park an RV on the street also. Correct?”
During discussion on Aug. 20, council members noted their concerns about allowing large vehicles to park for extended periods on narrow city streets, shared concerns they had received from other residents, who said they had safety concerns with the vehicles parked in their neighborhoods, and addressed language already in the city’s ordinance, restricting parking of large recreational vehicles, such as campers and boats, on city streets.
Council opted to pass a first reading only, with hopes that perhaps, they said, a large lot, or other alternative could be found to alleviate the parking void created by the language.
During the Sept. 3 meeting, two more speakers came forward, including Brenda Schmittinger, who described herself as a resident of Woodcrest Road and the wife of a truck driver, and Troy Johnson, whose wife, Shasta, spoke on Aug. 20.
Both were in favor of building alternatives into the ordinance that would allow for on-street or other city-designated parking alternatives for semis.
Schmittinger said that while she and her husband formerly owned a business delivering large vehicles such as campers and trailers, today her husband is a driver for JB Hunt. The couple moved into a home with her parents in 2016 where she serves as a fulltime caregiver, she said.
When they moved onto the dead-end road, Schmittinger said, she talked with her neighbors and the Milton Police Department support services manager about parking the semi cab only to make sure there were no concerns. All indications were that there would not be a problem, Schmittinger said.
She said taking the parking alternative away from her husband would create a hardship for her family.
She asked council members to consider creating a permit that would allow her husband to park on the dead-end street.
Schmittinger said she had also made inquiries of several Milton businesses with large parking lots, looking for parking alternatives, but those entities remained unaccommodating, she said, cited concerns with liability.
She said her husband’s parking habits are within the 48-hour limit as stipulated within the ordinance, and he only brings the cab home.
She said experience with her former business taught her that buses, campers, trailers and even some boats weigh as much as some semis, and many recreational vehicles are over the 12,000-pound weight limit the city is proposing.
Troy Johnson said he and his family had lived in Milton for eight years. He started his own trucking business seven years ago.
“We had some neighbors that complained compulsively,” Johnson said, noting that in his opinion, the truck “wasn’t doing any harm.” He said he only parked for up to 10 hours at a time, and was usually there to do laundry.
He said he began to receive tickets for snow ordinance parking on days when there wasn’t any snow.
“That’s when I said I was done. If Milton didn’t want to support my business, I wasn’t going to support businesses in Milton. I hate to see anybody else have feelings like I do,” Johnson said.
He suggested setting a weight limit for parked semis that was large enough to prohibit trailers, but would allow drivers to park cabs.
During discussion on Sept. 3, Council member Ryan Holbrook asked Schmittinger if parking in her driveway could provide a solution.
Schmittinger said the family needed the space for other vehicles and the driveway was on an incline, which, she said, created a safety concern.
Council member Lynda Clark said she liked the idea of allowing semis to park on Commerce Drive.
“I don’t know if we can still come up with something beyond this. I feel like we should make the effort at least for our city residents,” she said.
“I support the permit, but I want to be real clear that we are not responsible for whatever happens to those vehicles,” council member Larry Laehn said.
Council members discussed limiting permits to trucking business owners living within the city limits.
Schmittinger said her husband was a city resident, but did not own a trucking business. She said she and her husband would be willing to pay for a permit to park on their dead-end street.
Council members discussed ideas about determining how many semi drivers lived within the city.
“Let's just say there are 30 semi trucks in Milton. Does that change the narrative?” Hulick asked.
Holbrook asked: “If we go with a permit, how much hassle does that cause the city?”
Hulick said he had a “multitude of questions.” He noted that while Woodcrest was currently a dead-end street, he asked, what would be the protocol if that changed, or if new neighbors who did not like a semi parked on their street moved in?
“What is the mechanism by which we would revoke that permit?” he asked.
Council member Bill Wilson said language in the ordinance in his estimation was more about safety, visibility, and damage to city streets.
He suggested more vetting was required to determine how best to develop a permitting process.
“The existing ordinance as it reads now, gives us an ability to ask a truck to be moved if it is in an unsafe location," Marquardt said.
Council member Theresa Rusch said safety and damage to city streets were her biggest concerns.
“I don’t have any problem restricting the trailer. But the tractor I think is a little more subjective in terms of there are other vehicles out there that probably weigh that much or pretty darn close to it,” Wilson said.
City Attorney Mark Schroeder pointed to what he said were some inconsistencies between allowing parking within the city and allowing trucks to travel on Class B roads.
As the ordinance reads, he said, travel on the city’s Class B roads is restricted to vehicles weighing less than 12,000 pounds.
“Right now, the only (state) statutory exception for that is if they make a delivery. Driving home on a Class B highway is not an exception,” Schroeder said.
“I can prepare a revision, but you still need to address the weight issue,” he said.
Schroeder said he would further explore Class B regulations.
Hulick said Schroeder’s research would be included when the language returned for a third reading.