St. Francis eyes ban on gravel driveways

Mayor pans 'unsightly' driveways, parking lots

May 19, 2009

City officials are considering an ordinance that would ban property owners from installing gravel driveways and parking lots.

The issue came up during a recent Common Council meeting after Mayor Al Richards voiced concerns that a homeowner on East Denton Avenue tore up a chunk of grass in his yard and installed a gravel parking area.

"I think that's unsightly," Richards said.

The Common Council referred the issue to the Board of Public Works, which briefly discussed the issue May 11, but took no action.

Building Inspector Craig Vretenar said a city ordinance requiring residents to use asphalt or concrete for driveways and parking lots was changed about six to seven years ago to allow homeowners to save money by installing gravel instead.

Now, officials are considering changing the ordinance so that residents would be prohibited from installing gravel in front of their homes. But gravel likely would be allowed on a residential lot near an alleyway, he said.

Impact still being evaluated

Officials are in the process of calculating how many homes and businesses would be in violation of such an ordinance if were to be passed, he said.

After the city changed its ordinance, some property owners opted to install gravel because it is more affordable, Vretenar said. He said there are "probably a handful" of people who have gravel parking lots and driveways installed.

Donald Brickner, 2nd District alderman, said if such an ordinance is created, it should give property owners who already have gravel installed a certain amount of time to refinish their parking lots or driveways, so they can be in compliance with the new ordinance.

The length of time residents would have to convert their gravel driveways or parking lots into asphalt or concrete has yet to be determined.

City Administrator Ralph Voltner said officials discussed such an ordinance more than 20 years ago, targeting business owners. At that time, discussions were dropped after members of the St. Francis Association of Commerce felt it was "anti-business," he said.

Breadth of limit unknown

"I think an ordinance could be crafted to improve all areas on improved streets or alleys," he said.

Under the ordinance, residents would have to bring their property into compliance within a certain amount of time, he said.

"But it makes no sense to do this when you have a gravel alley and gravel parking," Voltner added.

When city crews make street improvements, many residents voluntarily fix up their driveways and residences on those roads, he said.

It is unknown when further discussions will take place on implementing such an ordinance.

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