For many homeowners who live near the N.C. State University campus, it has long been a complaint that ranks high on the list of neighborhood gripes, right up there with late-night parties and blaring music.
Cars parked in the front yard – a common sight in areas with student rental housing – have been the target of an eight-year campaign by residents bent on convincing the city to outlaw the practice.
Those efforts reached a breakthrough this week when the City Council approved rules that impose limits on cars parked on the grass. The guidelines also spell out what property owners must do to create acceptable parking areas.
Originally designed to cover the entire city, the ban will instead apply only to designated districts, starting with an area surrounding NCSU.
The scaled-back version was necessary to secure enough votes for passage, said City Councilman Thomas Crowder, who has worked on the issue since 2004.
“I think we’ll see other communities in the city reaching out to have this ordinance,” Crowder said. “One day, we may even see it citywide.”
Landlords and property rights activists derided a ban as government overreach, though no opponents showed up to speak at Tuesday’s vote.
Landlords will have to raise rents to make the required fixes, said John Brooks, a retired state lawyer.
“If it were citywide, at this time in the economy, it would be catastrophic,” Brooks said. “We’ve got so many properties that would have to spend significant money.”
Council members still have to vote on the boundary lines that specify which neighborhoods are part of the initial targeted area.
City officials propose an area bounded by Hillsborough Street and Wade Avenue, Lake Wheeler Road, Tryon Road and Jones Franklin Road. A public hearing is Sept. 4.
The neighborhoods around NCSU have been some of the strongest advocates for reining in lawn parking. But college students aren’t the only offenders, supporters say.
“People who park at all different angles, all over front yards, do not do anything to enhance their neighborhood,” said Mary Belle Pate, a 71-year-old retired teacher who lives off Tryon Road. “If anything, they bring it down.”
The policy delves into the minutiae of things like gravel borders and the location of shrubs.
Front yard driveways and parking areas in single-family homes will have to be made of surfaces that won’t erode, such as concrete or asphalt. Gravel or crushed stone are OK, as long as the borders are clearly defined.
Residents who can’t afford or don’t want to restructure their driveways must park single-file, perpendicular to the curb, or park on the street.
“It’s not as onerous as I think people thought at first glance,” Crowder said.
Violators can face zoning violations that bring $100 fines for the first offense and $500 for each subsequent offense.
Debbie Moose says she has a close-up view of the problem. Renters who live next door, in the Avent West community off Avent Ferry Road, park their pickup trucks on the lawn.
“It’s been eight years of the city going back and forth on this,” said Moose. “I had kind of given up.”