Defining 'commercial' hangs up commercial truck parking ban

After lengthy discussions Monday night, the Board of Aldermen postponed action on expanding a city ordinance to ban commercial vehicles from being parked overnight on city streets.

The ordinance in question deals with the parking of trailers, semi-truck trailers, boats, campers and other vehicles.

The issue came up because city officials have been getting complaints from residents about large commercial vehicles parked on city streets and in municipal lots.

Alderman Bryan Anderson said he brought the matter to the city attorney because of the complaints.

“Working with residents of our district who have been subjected to diesel fumes, oil and lubricant spills endangering the ecosystem of Gulf Pond and related waterways, and other public nuisances, I reached out to Jonathan Berchem to research the issue, and to Mayor Blake for support,” Anderson said. “Jonathan’s research revealed that Milford is one of the few municipalities that has not regulated the parking of commercial vehicles overnight on residential streets.”

City officials tried to address the problem by amending an ordinance created in 2016 that bans long-term parking of boats, jet skis or campers, as well as semi-truck trailers and recreational vehicles, on city streets.

But updating the ordinance created more questions than answers.

The aldermen thought the revision might have some unintended consequences for people who drive large pickup trucks; and several aldermen questioned the original ordinance, wondering if it might dissuade people from bringing their jet skies to Milford.

The proposed revision took the original ordinance and added “camp trailers, motor homes and commercial vehicles” to the regulation.

Then it defined a commercial vehicle as one that requires a commercial drivers license, weighs more than 15,000 pounds, has two rear axles or more, and is designed to transport 16 or more passengers, with the exception of those “used and housed at approved schools or houses of worship."

Defining “commercial vehicles” was the focus of lengthy debate.

Alderman Jeremy Grant, saying there are only a few pickup trucks that weigh more than 10,000 pounds, proposed an amendment changing the weight limit from 15,000 pounds to 10,000 pounds, and adding qualifiers, as the City of Danbury does, to exclude from the ban station wagons, compact type bus vehicles and pickup trucks that are used for personal use.

There was some concern about the 10,000 pound limit. Board Chairman Phil Vetro, for example, said, “According to the amendment, Alderman Tranquilli and I would have to get rid of our pickup trucks.”

But Grant explained that his proposal, like Danbury’s, would exempt non-commercial pickup trucks from the rule, and therefore personal-use pickup trucks would not be banned.

The discussion turned to the original ordinance, perhaps in light of a resident who said he thought the ordinance was counterintuitive because Milford is a shoreline community that attracts boaters and jet skiers.

Alderman Frank Smith asked about the language of the ordinance, wondering if it might be made clear that it doesn’t apply to people parking their trailers for a short period of time so they can unload their boats or jet skies and put them in the water.

Alderman Vetro added that parking a boat on a trailer in the road is not a problem in some parts of the city because the roads are wide.

“I park my boat often times with my car on the street,” Vetro said. “There’s no safety issue at all.”

But Vetro agreed that on narrow streets, like East Broadway, it is a valid safety issue, and people get most angry when people park them there for the whole winter. Vetro said “it’s a tricky ordinance.”

Alderman Smith said he was going to propose that boat trailers be allowed to stay in the road for 24 hours, but after Alderman Ray Vitali said that safety should be paramount in the discussion, Smith changed his mind.

The aldermen also talked at length about the fact that the ordinance leaves a large part of the enforcement up to the discretion of the police officer who gets the call.

Alderman Anthony Sutton said he thought the ordinance should go back to the ordinance committee for tweaking, and Alderman Vitali made a motion that the ordinance be postponed. The board voted 8 to 6 to postpone it.